Heavily outshot, and victims of a last-second comeback, the Toronto Furies nevertheless deserved their 4-3 win over the Calgary Inferno.
This was a game of remembrance for Toronto in more than one way. To mark Remembrance Day there was a moment of silence, and a member of the military dropped the ceremonial first puck. The Furies also expressed their condolences to the family of Sarah Stevenson, a player from the 2015-16 season, who passed away suddenly. The team will wear her number 7 for the rest of the season in her memory.
Coach Jeff Flanagan decided to mix up his lines a little for this game, sending out Shannon Stewart with Emily Fulton and Carolyne Prévost to start. The changes worked very well, as the Furies started off at a quick pace. They were the more dominant team for most of the period, using shorter passes and good stick work to keep possession of the puck. Even their line changes seemed to have improved significantly.
Just five and a half minutes into the game Carlee Campbell sent Fulton on a breakaway and the result was one of those goals that makes you wish every CWHL game was broadcast. She took the puck in under pressure from the Inferno defense and managed to flip it at just the right angle to go in over the shoulder of Inferno goalie Toni Ross. 1-0 Furies.
There was an issue with the game clock's buzzer going off at random during the first part of the period. Eventually one of the officials got involved during a stoppage, coming into the box to help set things right. There was a discussion with both benches before play resumed.
The first Calgary goal came with a little under six minutes left in the period. Van der Bliek’s rebounds had been safely controlled by Furies defenders so often that when Inferno rookie Kelty Apperson got hold of a rebound and sailed it into the net before van der Bliek could adjust her position it was almost shocking. 1-1
Apart from assisting with game ops, the officials didn't really get involved until Jess Vella was called for roughing with less than four minutes left. Fulton tried to create something shorthanded during the resulting penalty kill but couldn't get out of the neutral zone. The second Inferno goal wasn't technically a power play goal, but coming just one second after Vella's penalty expired, it might as well have been. Jacquie Pierri (on a bit of a streak after scoring her first CWHL goal last weekend) from Taryn Baumgardt in a bit of a mess at the net. 2-1 Inferno
Despite the score, this was the best period I’ve seen from the Furies in ages, so much so that when the shots were announced as 14 to 4 in favour of the Inferno at the end of the period, I exclaimed “What?” right out loud.
The beginning of the second period was delayed briefly by some issues with the Furies net. Once that was set to rights, the period started with the same line of Fulton, Stewart and Prévost for Toronto.
Calgary began to dictate play more often, but Jess Vella was the only goal scorer of the period. At 7:08 she came charging into the Inferno zone with Sydney Kidd as support. Hassled by an Inferno defender, she passed to Kidd, who passed it right back and Vella managed to bat it past the goalie’s pads to tie the game 2-2.
Generally though, the Furies were a little slower this period. They had some chances (the line of Julie Allen, Brittany Zuback and Jenna Dingeldein was particularly noticeable) but there were a number of times when icing was waved off only because the Inferno goalie had to play the puck.
Hayley Williams sat for roughing with just over seven minutes left in the period. Vella and Prévost were together on one penalty killing unit and they clearly had plans for something shorthanded, attempting an exit at least twice before being foiled in the neutral zone.
Again, the Inferno dominated the shot clock, this time 16 to 7.
Although they seemed to pick it up a little from the second period’s slower pace, the Furies had trouble exiting their zone in the third period. My notes involve a lot of “SVDB save” and “Furies icing” for most of the time.
Finally, with a little over eight minutes left in the period, Vella carried the puck into the zone for a shot. She was unsuccessful but Shannon Moulson kept the puck in the zone and sent it back on net. In the resulting scramble, Hayley Williams got her first CWHL goal to put Toronto up 3-2
The Furies had a few chances immediately following the goal, but got into trouble when Michelle Saunders was called for a bodycheck with about six and a half minutes to go.
During the resulting Inferno power play, the Furies failed to get the puck out of their zone even once. Kudos to van der Bliek for not only surviving the full two minutes, but also being savvy enough to hold the puck on her first chance after the power play expired, thus allowing the exhausted penalty killing unit to finally get off the ice. After another icing about 30 seconds later, the team called a timeout to recover (the CWHL does have some rules that are different from international play but they don’t follow every NHL rule change).
The Inferno pulled Ross from the net with just fifty seconds left. It was a full on battle in the Furies zone but time was ticking away and it looked like things would be fine... until Brittany Esposito managed to score with just 0.02 seconds left on the clock. (Putting .02 seconds back on a game clock seems to be no easy task.)
Shots were 13 - 3 for the Inferno.
This was quite possibly the slowest five minutes of 4 on 4 hockey I have ever witnessed. Prévost looked like she might have a chance but went in offside. That was about it so we went to the shootout.
Furies: Emily Fulton, goal
Inferno: Sophie Shirley, no goal
Furies: Brittany Zuback, no goal
Inferno: Brittany Esposito, goal
Furies: Shannon Stewart, no goal
Inferno: Kelty Apperson, no goal
Furies: Jenna Dingeldein, no goal
Inferno: Rhianna Kurio, no goal
Furies: Julie Allen, goal
Inferno: Louise Warren, no goal
Furies win 4-3, and we all get to do it again Sunday at 1:00pm Eastern.
3. Carolyne Prévost, Toronto Furies (100th game as a Fury)
2. Kelty Apperson, Calgary Inferno (1G)
1. Jess Vella, Toronto Furies (1G, 1A 2PIM)
The shot clock really does not tell the tale of this game (apologies to van der Bliek, who might disagree). Although they couldn’t maintain the strong pace of the first period, this was not the disastrous team that lost to the Vanke Rays two weeks ago. They had plans, they disrupted the Inferno’s game, they were aware of the puck and they weren’t leaning on one specific player at any point in the game.
As well as a milestone game for Prévost, this was Brooke Beazer’s 150th CWHL game (regular season), Hayley Williams scored her first CWHL point in her second season in the league, and Sydney Kidd took only four games to do the same (albeit with an assist instead of a goal).
The new lines included a line of Vella, Williams and Beazer, which is A Choice. I’m not as familiar with Beazer but Vella and Williams are both pests. Other teams have checking lines, this is an annoying line. Both Williams and Vella had good nights so it seemed to work! The only line I have no real comment on is the fourth line of Delainey, Aramburu and O’Grady. Not only did we not see them a ton, they’re all new to me.
Sophie Shirley came into the game leading Calgary in scoring. She’s one of the few North Americans in the league with an age exception, having played for Team Canada at the Under-18 Worlds less than a year ago. I was surprised, given all that, that I only really noticed her once or twice during the game.