There was a lot of hype around this weekend’s series between the Toronto Furies and les Canadiennes de Montréal. Not only was the game nationally broadcast, but Caroline Ouellette, already the all-time CWHL points leader, needed just one more goal to stand alone as the the all-time CWHL goal scorer. Plus, if the Furies could win one game (or even both), they stood a chance at a third-place finish over the Brampton Thunder. It was also the Canadiennes annual Pink the Rink night to raise funds for breast cancer research.
The Furies didn’t get their wins, and Ouellette didn’t get her goal. But Furies defender Shannon Moulson’s final game of the regular season took her to 218 CWHL games played, and that is a league record.
Saturday February 4, 2-0 Canadiennes
To start the game, the Canadiennes matched their first line of Bettez, Poulin, and Ouellette against the Toronto first line of Allen, Cava, and Spooner. The pink sweaters the Canadiennes wore in the first period made reading names and numbers very difficult, so I can’t verify whether Montréal maintained this strategy throughout. Whether it was due to a lower calibre of opponent than usual or not, the Furies second line of Prevost, Terry, and Kohanchuk certainly had a very good game.
Early on play was very back and forth, with the Furies getting the most offensive chances. The Furies had six defenders on the bench for the first time this calendar year and the difference in defence was notable - Toronto looked much more structured in the face of some sloppy Montréal defending.
One example of this came on an extended sequence of pressure in the Canadiennes zone that not only drew a roughing call on Kim Deschenes, but continued for several seconds of 6-on-5 play and a ringer off the post from Carlee Campbell before Montréal regained possession and play was whistled down.
Natalie Spooner was impressive on the ensuing power play, not so much for her shot but for her ability to keep control of the puck while fighting off three defenders along the boards. Michela Cava fanned on an excellent chance, one of many could-have-beens throughout the game.
Christina Kessler looked much more herself than we’d seen of late, showing off several impressive saves including one on Caroline Ouellette about halfway through the period while the Furies were on the penalty kill.
Since Ouellette couldn’t find the back of the net it should come as no surprise that the first Canadiennes goal came from Marie-Philip Poulin. With Ouellette acting as a screen in front, she sent a sweet wrister past both Erin Ambrose and Christina Kessler that was very hard to regret.
As the period wore on the Canadiennes started to get more opportunities against Toronto, but Kessler was equal to all of them. The Furies finished off the period on the penalty kill (Prevost, body checking) but still managed short-handed chances by both Terry and Spooner.
The second period started with the remainder of the kill followed almost immediately by a second penalty (Ambrose, roughing). The Furies handled both quite well, through a combination of short-handed chances - one for Kohanchuk this time, excellent goaltending from Kessler, and some messy play by Montréal.
So much time on ice for the penalty killers led to a rare fourth line shift, which Jenna Dingeldein probably regretted somewhat when she was shoved bodily against the net:
Unfortunately, Kessler wasn’t the only goalie having a good game. Canadiennes goaltender Charline Labonté ultimately had fewer saves to make, but the Furies forced her to make some show-stoppers, including this incredible toe save on a two on none by Terry and Prevost:
The Furies found their legs again about halfway through the period, with attempts by Cava and Allen and a breakaway from Prevost. There were a few near-misses from the Canadiennes as well, including Ouellette hitting her own teammate (Bettez) with a shot, and a goal from Blais which was called back due to a kicking motion.
Things got a little physical after the non-goal and the Furies pressed late but the only result was a collision between Poulin and Fast that looked worrisome for Poulin.
The third period brought us Julie Chu (okay so technically Julie Chu is the enemy but she is also a legend)! Chu arrived late because her Concordia Stingers also had a game on Saturday.
Both teams were more aggressive in the third. Cava had multiple opportunities, Kessler had multiple saves, and Ouellette hit a crossbar. I was actually worried the Canadiennes might score when Ouellette went off for slashing with six minutes left - while they weren’t ridiculous about it, Montréal was definitely trying to set her up to score and I thought that getting rid of the distraction might have helped their offence. They didn’t score but it was a frustrating power play as the Furies couldn’t get their first (vastly superior) power play unit on until more than halfway through the penalty.
The final goal of the night was a trainwreck. With the Canadiennes on the power play and less than two minutes left on the clock, Kessler went to the bench. There was clearly some sort of miscommunication going on as the Furies were not really set up to defend an empty net - in fact hadn’t entirely got possession when Kessler left. Karell Emard took advantage, and Ann-Sophie Bettez got her second assist of the game.
Bettez finished the weekend still on a twelve game point streak, having scored 27 points over that time. Note: Hockey Canada persists in ignoring her, thus fans will have plenty of opportunity to see her next season.
All in all it was a much more even game than the previous televised game between the Furies and the Inferno, making it a better showcase for the CWHL as a whole.
- Charline Labonté (18 SV)
- Christina Kessler (27 SV)
- Marie-Philip Poulin (GWG)
Sunday February 5, 2-1 Canadiennes (OT)
The second game was not broadcast (and I was not in Montréal, more’s the pity) so I can only report that scoring was almost as scarce as it was in the first. Ann-Sophie Bettez took less than three minutes to score in the first period and it took the Furies until 10:10 of the third to tie it up on a goal by Kelly Terry. Marie-Philip Poulin scored another game-winner in OT, assisted by, who else? Bettez.
Despite the fact that both Ouellette and Chartrand were looking for milestones in the game (Chartrand is at career point 99), it was Shannon Moulson who broke a record just by showing up. She now holds the record for most CWHL games played at 218.
- Marie-Philip Poulin (GWG, 1A)
- Ann-Sophie Bettez (1G, 1A)
- Natalie Spooner
Thus ends the Furies’ regular season. Eight Furies will be playing in next weekend’s CWHL All-Star Game, including All-Star Captain Carlee Campbell and her opponent, All-Star Co-Captain Natalie Spooner (with Meghan Mikkelson). The game starts at 1:30 pm EST and will be broadcast on Sportsnet as well as presumably available on the CWHL homepage for those outside of Canada.