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Shenzhen trip ends in a close loss for Markham Thunder 1-0

Toronto Furies bring the first shootout to Shenzhen and come away with one point.

Visual China - CWHL

Markham Thunder vs Kunlun Red Star 0-1

Their last game in Shenzhen was one of their best, but the Markham Thunder couldn’t beat Noora Räty and that made all the difference.

Whatever kept Liz Knox out of uniform in the previous game, it wasn’t affecting her any today as she put up an excellent 27 save performance. It was enough to earn her third star of the game, but not enough for the win.

First period

This was a slower game again, more on pace with the weekend’s two games than Wednesday’s. The Thunder had trouble keeping possession in the early going, including during their first power play of the game. The stream was interrupted for a while in the middle of the period, so I can’t fully comment, but from what I saw, their only sustained offensive zone time came near the end of the period. Still, shots and opportunities were about even, with Red Star up 8 - 7.

Unfortunately that one extra shot made all the difference. The technical difficulties meant I didn’t see the goal live, but from the replay it was the only time all game Kunlun managed to get Knox out of position. She stopped one shot dead on but with two other Red Star players on the other side of the net to pick up the rebound, even a heroic dive wasn’t enough to stop Zoe Hickel from scoring.

Second period

Jamie Lee Rattray was called for tripping with 18 seconds left in the first, so the Thunder started the next period on the penalty kill. Kunlun was in full control, and Markham only got the puck out of their own zone with five seconds left. They got a power play of their own about a minute later but a missed pass as they were setting up pretty much derailed the whole power play.

The Thunder regrouped at even strength and Rattray had one of a few excellent shots on Räty. It was clear Rattray was motivated to score but as with the last game, the Thunder couldn’t get Räty moving — often Jamie Lee was shooting solo with support on the way instead of at the net. KRS aren’t generally known for their defence but the Thunder had trouble getting enough players around the net to even sett up a screen on Räty. If Noora can see it, she can stop it. She stopped 12 shots in the period to Knox’s 13.

Third period

Another late penalty, this time to Devon Skeats for tripping, had the Thunder on the kill to start the third. Knox continued to impress, continually in the right place at the right time to stop, smother or redirect everything that Red Star threw at her. Melanie Jue went off for slashing about halfway through the period and the power play got off to a good start, but again nothing that Räty couldn’t see coming.

Knox left the net with 90 seconds left in the game and things looked hopeful for a while before Kunlun tried for an empty netter. Things got physical in the Markham zone and somehow Stephanie Anderson wound up with two minutes and a game misconduct for head contact. (To be quite honest I thought it was Anderson that was the recipient of the head contact, not the other way around, but I have been known to miss things.) 46 seconds of 6 on 4 got a little scrambly for Kunlun and Markham came oh so close, forcing Räty to stop play with only three seconds left. Sadly, close wasn’t enough and the Thunder will be leaving China without a win to their name.

Notes

Jenna McParland was still out of the lineup, which was not unexpected but worrying nonetheless.

The teams seemed louder on the ice today - might just have been microphone placement, or maybe I had the volume up higher than usual but there was a lot of emphatic on ice communication.

Weekend games seem to draw better than Wednesday afternoon, as attendance was much improved, and the crowd chanted enthusiastically whenever they were prompted by the in arena announcer.

Similarly, I’m not sure if it was a new commentator or if after six games he was just getting more invested in the home team, but the commentator was much more enthusiastic, even during plays that didn’t involve a shot on goal.

Three Stars

3. Liz Knox, Markham Thunder (27 saves)

2. Shiann Darkangelo, Kunlun Red Star

1. Zhixin Liu, Kunlun Red Star (1A, 2PIM)

Toronto Furies vs Vanke Rays 2-3 (SO)

Possibly the most exciting game of the series was, of course, one I didn't get to see. First overtime in Shenzhen, first shootout in Shenzhen and most importantly, first point for a North American CWHL team in Shenzhen!

The Furies outshot the Rays again, this time 37-36. Sonja van der Bliek and Elaine Chuli played 65 minutes each and the game tying and game winning goals were both scored by a player Annie and I really wanted in Toronto this year.

First period involved several penalties but it looked like both teams would emerge unscathed until Brooke Webster scored at even strength with less than a minute left in the period.

The Furies answered back under five minutes into the second, Carolyne Prévost's first goal of the season (we all knew it was coming) off of Michelle Saunders' first assist of the season.

Ashleigh Brykaliuk was called for hooking at 13:27 and Emily Fulton brought the Furies their first lead of the game (maybe the series) with this power play goal.

Sadly, Cayley Mercer tied things up again for Vanke in pretty short order.

Despite a combined 23 shots in the third period the game went to overtime and four rounds in the shootout. Mercer was the only player to score, giving the Rays both the win and sole possession of first place.

All in all, Toronto handled themselves pretty respectably this roadtrip. Their closest competition remains the Thunder and in comparison, they looked like the better team. Scoring remains an issue, we'll see if they can solve that going forward.

Three stars

3. Yue Hou, Vanke Rays

2. Carolyne Prévost, Toronto Furies (1G, 2PIM)

  1. Brooke Webster, Vanke Rays (1G)

The next GTA games will be a weekend split against Montréal with Markham hosting les Canadiennes on Saturday December 2 (streamed online) and Toronto taking the Sunday December 3 game.