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CWHL Recap: Third period woes hinder Furies and Thunder

Kunlun Red Star and Vanke Rays both won their home openers.

The players of Kunlun Red Star group together in front of the net for a last-minute pep talk before the game.
Kunlun Red Star at their season opener.
Chris Tanouye - CWHL

The Toronto Furies and Markham Thunder played their first games in Shenzhen, China on Saturday. Jetlag may have been a factor as both teams ran out of gas in the third period.

Toronto Furies vs Kunlun Red Star 1-3

Unfortunately I was one of many who were affected by technical difficulties so I didn’t see much of the first two periods.

The scratches for the Furies were forward Danielle Gagné, defenders Katie Gaskin and Carlee Campbell, and goalie Sami Jo Small. Sonja van der Bliek was in goal for her sixth game. The line of Shannon Stewart, Emily Fulton and Carolyne Prévost started for the Furies, with Shannon Moulson and Sydney Kidd on the back end.

For the Red Star Noora Räty took the net. The starting lineup consisted of Baiwei Yu and Zhixin Liu on defence with Rachel Llanes, Melanie Jue and Madison Woo on forward. (Jue is listed as a defender on the game sheet but I’m making the assumption she was the third forward since she’s played both positions.)

The first period seems to have been pretty quiet until Emily Fulton was called for bodychecking at 8:52. It took Kunlun just 22 seconds to capitalize, scoring their very first goal at home. The honour went to Kelli Stack (of course) with an assist from Taylor Marchin. Red Star outshot the Furies 11-6 in the period.

Toronto survived a second bodychecking penalty (Brittany Zuback) in the second period before cashing in on their first power play of the game (Melanie Jue, hooking). Emily Fulton moved into a tie for first in Furies scoring as she sent this one in from the hash marks. On the highlight it looked like Jess Vella, hovering around the net and making a nuisance of herself as usual, might have tipped it in but the game sheet and the on-ice hugging gave the goal to Fulton, with an assist from Kidd. An eight-second power play is pretty good!

The third period looked pretty even. Frankly, I was expecting Red Star to be outskating the Furies more than they were. Stack did send another puck in but she also sent herself and van der Bliek in at the same time so for some reason that was considered goalie interference.

The lone penalty of the period was on Prévost for tripping. Things were back at even strength for just 19 seconds when Shiann Darkangelo found herself some clear ice and just unloaded on van der Bliek. Too fast for my eyes, she either went five hole or top shelf but either way she made the goalie look irrelevant.

That was bad enough but about a minute and a half later Red Star got numbers on net. Kelli Stack had the puck in close, pulling van der Bliek to her side of the net before backhanding a quck pass to Zoe Hickel, who tucked it into the open goal.

Furies pulled the goalie with about 1:50 left in the game but couldn’t pull off the comeback.

Kunlun Red Star win their first home game, 3-1.

Notes

Assistant coach PJ Michael (head coach Flanagan will join the Furies for tomorrow’s game) matched the Zuback, Dingeldein, Allen line against the Stack line. We’ll see if that continues on Sunday.

Attendance looked pretty good, it’ll be interesting to see numbers.

I noticed the officials were four white women so I checked with the league - the officials are all North American and flown in by the league. While there are some IIHF certified officials in China, there are a few differences between IIHF rules and CWHL play.

Three Stars

3. Emily Fulton, Toronto Furies (1G)

2. Jessica Wong, Kunlun Red Star (1A)

1. Kelli Stack, Kunlun Red Star (1G, 1A)

Markham Thunder vs Vanke Rays 1-6

Erica Howe got the assignment in goal for this game. The starters were Jamie Lee Rattray, Kristen Richards, and Nicole Brown at forward, with Lindsay Grigg and Alexis Woloschuk on defence.

Elaine Chuli started her sixth game in a row in goal. Xin He, Minghui Kong and Xin Fang were the starting forwards with Rose Alleva and Qinan Zhao on the back end.

The teams seemed pretty evenly matched in the first period. Play was back and forth and the only sustained zone time was happening in the neutral zone. It wasn’t until the later stages of the first that the Rays managed to put some pressure on the Thunder defence. Brooke Webster was the first Ray to score at home, a nice shot through a ton of traffic. As has already become typical, the assist was from Cayley Mercer. Shots were pretty close, with the home team up 10-8.

The Thunder really got going in the second period. They spent large parts of the period in the Vanke zone, outshooting them 14-10 despite taking the period’s only penalty. Between the Rays defense and Chuli’s goaltending it didn’t do them any good. Late in the period, in fact less than 30 seconds earlier than when she did it in the first, Webster sent a blast past Howe. She had a pretty clean lane and very fast hands — it looked a lot like the Darkangelo goal earlier in the day.

Chuli spent a lot of time worrying about one of her net pegs in the second period - it looked like a hole had developed in the ice around it so it could come out easily. Efforts were made to fill it in during two different stoppages. It reminded me of Räty’s issues at Worlds with substandard pegs, but unlike in Plymouth, it didn’t end up affecting the result of the game.

The wheels came off entirely for Markham in the third period, starting with an early penalty to Kristen Richards. She was called for roughing and the Rays capitalized less than a minute later. Hanna Bunton from Ashleigh Brykaliuk.

Emma Woods followed up with her first CWHL goal less than a minute later. The Thunder were blocking a flurry of shots, but the bounces kept going straight back to Vanke players, leaving Woods to simply sweep another blocked shot right into the net at close range.

Jenna McParland was called for goalie interference, a call Markham coach Jim Jackson disagreed with, and he disagreed even more vehemently when the Rays scored on the ensuing power play. (Brykaliuk from Mercer). Jessica Hartwick went to the box for tripping and Woods scored her second CWHL goal on that power play.

For those counting, that’s four goals for the Vanke Rays in the first five minutes of the period. Most of the remainder of the period just seemed interminable (the early morning hour of the game may have had something to do with my perception here I admit).

The Thunder had three power plays in the period, including some 5 on 3 time, but couldn’t convert — the Rays PK was quite excellent. Jamie Lee Rattray scored the lone Thunder goal at about the halfway mark. It was her third really great chance of the period and she sent it right through Chuli. The Thunder came on strong enough late in the period that the Rays called a timeout to regroup, but it wasn’t enough.

The Vanke Rays won their first home game 6-1

Notes

Frequent complaint 1: Jamie Lee Rattray needs more help in the scoring department. She can’t be expected to carry the team. This was her 75th regular season game with the Thunder, so congratulations to her on that, but she’s gotta be getting tired of this.

Frequent complaint 2: The Thunder have got to stop doing stupid things when they’re frustrated, especially when they’re losing. (They should also stop blaming the officials.) Their penalty kill’s good but it’s not perfect.

Nicole Kosta and Laura McIntosh were scratches — this is the sixth game in a row that 2017 first-round pick Kosta has sat out. I had a look at the recap for her last game but don’t see any indication of an injury.

The broadcast in Shenzhen featured multiple cameras, which was great, we got to see some of the corner battles as well as multiple angles on replays.

Three stars

3. Jamie Lee Rattray, Markham Thunder (75th Thunder game, 1G)

2. Cayley Mercer, Vanke Rays (3A)

1. Brooke Webster, Vanke Rays (2G, 2A)

Currently both expansion teams sit in a playoff spot and both GTA teams are out. Still over 20 games to go in the season though! You can catch the next two Sunday morning at 1:00 am and 7:30 am as these teams go for the rematch.