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CWHL Pre-season recap: Rookies lead Furies over Thunder 6-1

Sarah Nurse scores two as Markham and Toronto wrap up their pre-season.

Erica Howe kneels on the ice in full goalie gear with her back to the camera. Visual China - CWHL

Here’s the first post from PPP newcomer mediajunkie, who will be our Markham Thunder recapper for the 2018-19 season!

It was a busy weekend for both the Markham Thunder and Toronto Furies. On Saturday, they each took turns reffing Scotiabank’s Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer. After that, the Furies went into the city for their Toronto Scavenger Hunt as part of their Team Building weekend.

Sunday was the first matchup between the two CWHL teams this season. Even though it was an exhibition game, fans were eager to gauge how much each team has been bolstered by their draftees. They met up on neutral ground at the Aurora Community Centre for the Central York Girls Hockey Association 25th Anniversary.

The Aurora Community Centre arena has the old NHL setup where teams’ benches are on opposite sides of the ice, facing each other. This meant that Courtney Kessel, now head coach of the Toronto Furies, got to stare down some of her old teammates.

Both teams presented starting line ups that mixed rookies with veterans. The Furies started Anissa Gamble (a free agent released by Calgary at the end of last season), Natalie Spooner and second round draft pick Brittany Howard at forward, with fourth rounder Emma Greco joining Renata Fast on the blueline. The starting lineup for the Thunder included Jocelyne Larocque, fourth round draft pick Ella Matteucci, Jamie Lee Rattray up front, with pre-signed rookies Victoria Bach and Ailish Forfar on defense.

Starting off in net for the Furies was Shea Tiley with Elaine Chuli on the bench. Amanda Makela was watching from the stands by the Furies net.

Starting in goal for the Thunder was Erica Howe with Elijah Milne-Price on the bench. Liz Knox was watching from the stands along with Becca King and Laura Stacey.

First Period

It doesn’t take long for Olympian and first round draft pick Sarah Nurse to pop one in the net for the Furies, assisted by Fast. She had a clear shot and even though Howe was in the correct position, the shot was wide and into the top right corner of the net.

The next goal, also from the Furies, comes 6 minutes later from Gamble, assisted by Spooner and Mellissa Channell.

With two minutes left to go, there is a scramble in front of the net. Tiley is momentarily confused thinking that the puck is on her right, but Rattray skillfully puts one in her left corner.

Bach draws the first penalty of the game under the two minute mark for cross-checking. She’ll start off the next period in the box.

Score after the first period: 2-1 for the Furies. Both teams had seven shots on goal.

Second Period

Bach is out of the box five seconds in. Mackenzie MacNeil on the Furies draws a penalty for interference a few seconds after. However being down one player does not stop the Furies as Nurse breaks away toward the Thunder net and tries tries a backhanded shot, which is stopped by Howe.

Spooner makes it 3-1 with an unassisted shot into the top right of the net.

At the 12 minute mark, Rattray supposedly scores on Tiley. However a Markham celebration is cut short when the goal is waved off as Tiley miraculously makes the puck appear from her glove. A few seconds after the faceoff, there is a small fight in the Furies corner but the refs quickly break it up.

At the ten minute mark, there is a goaltender change for the Furies. Tiley is out and Chuli is in. Looks like they intend to split the goaltending duties 50-50. Howe remains in net for the Thunder.

The Furies are down both defenders - Shannon Moulson gets two minutes for slashing and Fast gets a crosschecking penalty for sending Rattray sliding down the ice in the corner just ten seconds later. It’s a 3 on 5 for the Thunder as they pass it around the net looking for an opening. After a bit of a scramble, Nurse manages to intercept the puck and sends it down the ice, shaving off some penalty kill seconds and enabling the Furies to successfully kill off both penalties.

Moulson draws yet another penalty five minutes later, this time for hooking behind the Furies net. However, the Furies prove that penalty kills do not faze them as they make it towards the Markham net.

With a minute left, the puck finds the way back to the Furies side and there is a bit of disagreement from Markham players with the ref’s whistle because the puck was not actually caught or covered by Chuli, but rather bounced on her glove five times before falling onto the ground.

Score after the second period: 3-1 for the Furies. Shots on goal were seven for Markham and three for the Furies.

Third Period

Markham is on the offensive this period, making a hard push for the Furies net. However two minutes in, Nurse is able to bring it back to the Markham net and puts one in unassisted, making it 4-1 for the Furies.

Channell makes it 5-1 with ten minutes left with a wrist shot, also unassisted.

With 30 seconds left to go, Howe saves a shot with her stick, but does not have it covered and MacNeil takes advantage of that fact to shove it in. This is the Furies sixth goal, with Moulson and Greco credited with the assists.

Final shots on goal were Thunder 18, Furies 13 - with half of those shots finding the back of the net.

*** Victoria Bach (1 assist, 2 PIMs)

** Natalie Spooner (1 goal, 1 assist)

* Sarah Nurse (2 goals)

A few things to note - Toronto has already decided on their full lineup, but Markham has yet to make their final cuts. Markham’s roster was missing a few Olympians (Stacey, Megan Bozek, and Laura Fortino) and other veteran players (King, Dania Simmonds). General Manager Chelsea Purcell said the coaching staff needs to see everyone in actual games before making a decision. Since this was Markham’s last pre-season game, it made sense to bench veterans for the rookies before final cuts are made.

The CWHL season starts on October 13th. The Markham Thunder kick off their season at home against the Worcester Blades at 7:00 pm and the Toronto Furies play the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays at 6:30 pm at the Mastercard Centre.