In the second half of their weekend series, the Toronto Furies faced the Boston Blades this afternoon at Larsen Rink in Winthrop, MA. Last night, the Blades got their first win of the season, beating the Furies 4-2 and extending Toronto’s losing streak to 11 games. Fortunately, this afternoon’s game had a happier ending for Furies fans, with Toronto winning 2-1.
Both Boston and Toronto chose to stick with their starting goaltenders, with Sonja van der Bliek in net for the Furies and Lauren Dahm starting for the Blades. The rest of the Furies’ starting lineup consisted of Michelle Saunders and Carlee Campbell on defense, and Jess Vella, Jenna Dingeldein, and Cassidy Delainey starting at forward.
The game started off with a chance from Michelle Ng, whose line with Meghan Grieves and Melissa Bizzari caused trouble for the Furies all weekend. They had two of Boston’s four goals yesterday, and have a combined speed and physicality that makes them dangerous. Grieves was named second star without showing up on the scoreboard, but she definitely earned it, and looked dangerous every time she had the puck.
At the same time, the Furies weren’t playing their best the first period. It was, for lack of a better word, messy, and Boston was capitalizing on missed passes and winning races to the puck.
Danielle Gagné was called for tripping, leading to our first look at Toronto’s penalty kill, although not our last—they took four penalties this game. The strength of Toronto’s penalty kill was how aggressive it was in the neutral zone. Once the Blades were in and set up, they created some scary chances, but the Furies did an excellent job of minimizing that zone time. They also threatened shorthanded, especially Carolyne Prévost, whose speed is a great weapon.
Ng went to the box for roughing at about ten minutes in, and then about five minutes later Sato Kikuchi took a high-sticking penalty, neither of which the Furies capitalized on. The Furies power play wasn’t as impressive to me, and Dahm is too good to beat with unscreened shots she can anticipate. Their power play could really use more puck movement.
Late in the period, after a bad turnover right in the slot in front of van der Bliek, Emily Fulton took a hooking call on Kate Leary to stop her from hitting an open net. Unfortunately, the Hockey Gods really wanted to make sure the Blades scored. After the Boston power play got in the zone and got set up, Shannon Moulson lost her stick, and with what was effectively a 5-on-3 Boston got some crisp cycling going. Megan Myers finished by putting it in, and the period ended 1-0 Boston.
Fortunately for me and my desire to not watch Toronto lose for a twelfth time in a row, the Furies came out for the second looking much more organized. Their passes were connecting and it looked like the Furies were driving play instead of playing catchup to Boston as they were in the first. They immediately got a few nice chances on Dahm, and it was all very exciting.
A passing play between Alessandra Bianchi and Jessica Platt that Platt couldn’t quite finish might’ve been their scariest chance up to that point in the game. I also got a big kick out of Campbell jumping up on the rush at one point and unloading a shot on Dahm (unfortunately, it was unsuccessful).
With about five minutes left, we had our first episode of nonsense—a scrum in the crease after Leary dug at the puck too enthusiastically next to van der Bliek. I’m surprised it took that long, knowing both of those teams.
Towards the end of the second, we got a solid chunk of Furies zone time, with Campbell and Saunders firing off a bunch of point bombs and multiple Furies forwards (I noticed Delainey especially, but there were others—I think the Furies completed a partial line change during this sequence) attempting deflections. They had the Blades on their heels for a solid minute, and it was only Dahm that kept them from tying it up.
Remember that nonsense I mentioned earlier? Moulson dumped a Blades player behind her own net with a cross-check with a minute left in the second period. The Blades spent that entire minute stuck in their own zone with the Furies pressuring shorthanded, so it could have been worse, but it wasn’t the most necessary penalty.
The Furies killed off the rest of the Moulson penalty, and Prévost continued to demonstrate that she is a gift to the Toronto penalty kill. I really thought she was going to come out of this game with a shorthanded goal.
Early in the period, there was a scary moment when Leary collided with Ella Stewart behind the Toronto net and went face-first into the boards. She was down in obvious distress for a while, and had to be helped off the ice. While she returned late in the period, it’s never good to see that.
Campbell made a diving play on Grieves that led to me scribbling “SHE’S BACK!” in my notes. Several Furies players looked good on D today; Campbell and Saunders make a great pair, and I was also impressed by Sydney Kidd, who did a nice job defensively and with moving the puck up the ice.
For most of the game, the Furies had been doing things right, and it finally paid off with ten minutes left. Fulton took Prévost’s outlet pass, streaked in, tried a nifty move and fired the puck past Dahm to tie the game 1-1. I think she might’ve used one of the Boston defenders as a screen, and it was all in all gorgeous.
Not long after, because the Furies have no sympathy for my cardiac health, Campbell took an elbowing call. It was killed off, complete with a nice shorthanded chance by Dingeldein, but that’s just not a nice thing to do. I was very cold at that point, and in a fragile mental state.
They made it up to me shortly, with a great capitalization off a turnover at the blue line. Fulton got the puck to Hayley Williams, who shot it into Dahm’s pads, but Dahm couldn’t control the rebound. Prévost cleaned up the garbage (if you can call a shot as nice as Prévost’s garbage, which seems unfair), giving the Furies a 2-1 lead with about four minutes left to play. Despite ending up pinned in their own zone for the last minute and a half with Dahm out of her net, Toronto—especially van der Bliek—held the Blades off. The Furies won 2-1, and the losing streak is no more.
- If you heard talk that this rink was cold: yes. It was very, very cold. It was so cold that my pen stopped working while I was trying to take notes. It was the experience of watching an outdoor game, only without the benefit of sunshine. While I’m sure some of that is just due to the nasty cold snap Boston is going through at the moment, it was a rather bizarre experience as a spectator, and probably not optimal if the Blades want to increase attendance.
- While neither of them made the afternoon’s Three Stars, I thought both van der Bliek and Dahm were great. Dahm had the larger workload, but van der Bliek did an excellent job in her end, and was impressively calm during a number of crease scrambles.
- We may have a change in hairstyle to thank for this win.
- Speaking of that workload—the final shot count today was 39 shots for the Furies, 19 for the Blades. Even if the Blades’ scorekeeper is more generous than most about what qualifies as a “shot”, the Furies should be pleased with controlling the play like that, despite the Blades having two more powerplays than they did.
- As someone who watches the Blades a lot by dint of location, I just want to take a moment to say how much I’ve enjoyed watching them this year. They’re still not where they want to be, but seeing this team rebuild and improve with great players like Dahm and Grieves is rewarding as a spectator. I’m glad the Furies won, and I’m glad that the Blades are continuing to make themselves harder to beat.
3rd: Carolyne Prévost, Toronto (1g, 1a)
2nd: Meghan Grieves, Boston
1st: Emily Fulton, Toronto (1g, 1a)
The Furies are home next weekend at the MasterCard Centre in Etobicoke, playing Kunlun Red Star at 8pm on Saturday and 1pm on Sunday. The Sunday game is also the PPP Furies meetup, and you should come watch CWHL hockey and hang out with us! All the cool kids are doing it.