clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Furies edge Blades, Canadiennes roll over Thunder

Natalie Spooner scores twice, Jill Saulnier has a three-point game.

Natalie Spooner stands on the ice for the anthem, holding her helmet. Chris Tanouye/CWHL

Toronto Furies 2 - Worcester Blades 1 (Game Summary)

This afternoon, the Toronto Furies sought to build on their win against the Shenzhen Rays when they took on the newly-relocated Worcester Blades. This was the Blades’ first game in their new rink, and there was a healthy-sized crowd on hand to help them break it in.

Elaine Chuli was in net for Toronto, and Mariah Fujimagari was at the other end for the Blades. Toronto went with a starting lineup of Shiann Darkangelo, Shannon Stewart, and Natalie Spooner at forward, and then Jordan Hampton and Sena Suzuki on D. The Blades went with Demi Crossman, Megan Myers, and Morgan Turner up front, and Taryn Harris and Lauren Williams on defense. The Furies’ scratches were Mackenzie MacNeil at forward and Shannon Moulson on defense, the same as Wednesday’s game.

First period

The first action in the game happened early—after Spooner threaded through what seemed like the entire Blades team to take a shot, it hit glass, and an attempt by Alexis Miller to get it out of the zone ended up in the netting instead. The Furies power play went to work, but despite their best efforts—including a great Sarah Nurse shot from the faceoff circle—Fujimagari kept them from converting.

A Kaitlin Spurling elbowing call at around eight minutes in was also killed off by the Blades. The Furies power play got good chances through most of the game, and the passing on display especially by the first unit was breathtaking, but they had a lot of difficulty keeping the puck in the zone and the Blades were able to waste a lot of shorthanded time that way.

After a feed from Spooner, Darkangelo took a shot that was saved by Fujimagari, but she didn’t fully control it. With Stewart, Darkangelo, and Spooner digging at the puck, it was Spooner’s stick that finally poked it over the line, making it 1-0 Furies.

Nurse took a holding call midway through the period, giving us our first look at the Blades’ power play, although the Furies’ penalty kill also seemed to be having a lot of fun. Carolyne Prévost was sprung for a shorthanded rush by Jess Vella (I think), and then Spooner had her own shorthanded try, yet again dancing through multiple defenders with ease.

Speaking of Nurse, at one point she was carrying the puck into the offensive zone, and instead of trying to avoid Chelsey Goldberg applying pressure along the boards, simply did not stop. Watching it happen in real life reminded me of those football drills where players push mannequins down the field. It was fantastic.

Taryn Harris of the Blades went off after elbowing Brittany Howard, who looked briefly rattled but got up (fortunately for Toronto, and also me, as Brittany Howard was a hell of a lot of fun to watch today). This time, it was the Blades managing some shorthanded zone time, but yet again neither team scored.

Towards the end of the period, Morgan Turner picked off a pass and came hard into the defensive zone, and Hampton ended up taking a hooking penalty in an effort to tie her up. The Furies’ penalty kill was one of the more interesting parts of this game—not only was it aggressive, but Spooner wasn’t the only top-six forward who got shorthanded time today. At one point, the four-woman penalty kill unit for a draw in the Blades’ zone was Howard, Nurse, Mellissa Channell, and Emma Greco, which is significant overlap with the first power play unit. They were openly trying for shorthanded chances, and I really liked the aggressiveness even if it didn’t pan out this game.

Second period

The second period started with some excitement, in the form of a rough turnover leading to a Megan Myers rush, with Chuli making a sprawling save to keep her from tying it up.

While there were no goals this period, for either team, the Furies had a whole lot of chances. Brittany Howard alone had a handful—early in the period, she fired a hard shot that went off Fujimagari’s stick and up into the netting next to me with a very impressive sound, and later on cut through the slot complete with a gorgeous little move to kick the puck to her stick and get a shot off. Nurse snapped a try right from the slot at one point, Channell finished off a beautiful high-low passing play with Howard, and late in the period, Howard rang a backhand off the post. None of these went in, and there were more chances I didn’t mention. Fujimagari had a good game all around, but this period was really something.

At about nine minutes in, Nurse tried to go through a Worcester defender again, but this time it worked out less well—she went down hard, and Alexis Miller of the Blades was called for body-checking. The Furies’ issues with holding the zone continued into this power play, and consequently, Nurse took a hooking penalty on a Blades shorthanded rush. The Furies managed some solid zone time at 4 on 4, with Channell and Julia Fedeski both hammering some point shots (loud ones!), but Fujimagari and the Blades’ defense were able to handle them.

Worcester’s next penalty was Howard’s doing—she snagged the puck in the neutral zone and charged in one on one, and ended up tangled on the ice with Meaghan Spurling, who was called for interference. Fujimagari came up strong again, most notably on a nice cross-ice feed from Greco to Darkangelo that she saved point-blank. Channell evened things up by taking down Meghan Grieves for a body-checking call, but nothing came of that either except a lot of saves by Fujimagari.

Third Period

Score effects were in action in the third, to some degree. The Blades came out with some new determination, and the Furies also seemed to be growing a bit frustrated—it’s never fun to throw everything at a goalie and get nowhere. After a wraparound try, Erin Kickham’s shot hit the crossbar, enough to give me a bit of a wake-up call. Five minutes into the period, though, Casey Stathopoulos cut across the slot and Suzuki couldn’t defend her tightly enough to keep her from getting the shot off. It went right past Chuli, and the Blades tied it up, 1-1.

It was only tied for about seven minutes. A misplayed pass at the Blades’ blue line was collected by a Fury (I thought it was Nurse from the other end of the rink, but the boxscore says Channell) and then passed to Spooner. She came in alone on Fujimagari, made a nice little move and tucked it around her pad and into the net, making it 2-1, Furies. Gorgeous goal.

From then on, Elaine Chuli did work. She made a crucial save on Kickham on the rush, but she saved her best for the ending minutes of the period. After taking a wayward stick to her face/neck area (it did not look pleasant, wherever it landed!), not a minute later she came through with a phenomenal sprawling save, just kicking her pad out enough to catch the puck at the top of her foot and maintain the Furies’ lead. It was great. I may have squeaked a little.

The Blades took a timeout with 1.7 seconds left, but whatever set play they had worked up was rendered pointless when Emily Fulton won the final faceoff. The Furies won the game, 2-1.

Notes

  • Brittany Howard! Somewhere in my game notes, I have written “get 3 a goal 2k18” and I really hope that happens for her tomorrow, because she for sure earned one today. This was my first time watching her play live, and I was just delighted—she’s scrappy and skilled and all the other things we were promised coming into the year.
  • I also really enjoyed watching Emma Greco; as another player I’ve never watched in person, I wasn’t wholly sure what to expect from her, and I was pleased with what I saw today. She made a couple clever passes in the offensive zone that stood out.
  • I noticed Mellissa Channell pinching pretty low a couple of times, and doing it effectively, too—she’s got a nice shot. While this might preclude her from ever being put on a pairing with Renata Fast, I love seeing defenders that are that comfortable jumping up on offense.
  • While I know it’s the eye test, the shot count listed on today’s box score (41 for the Blades, 29 for the Furies) just did not feel accurate to me. There was also a mix-up in the order of the first period penalties.
  • Natalie Spooner can simply do things mere mortals can’t. Watching her live is a treat. Watching her on the ice with Nurse, doubly so.
  • I watched most of the game standing next to some of the Concord Capitals, a girls’ U12 team from Concord, New Hampshire. Since they were from New England, it surprised me that they were cheering for the Toronto Furies—they had a big Furies flag and everything!—but it turned out they had an excellent reason. Kacey, a player for the Capitals with Type 1 diabetes, is an acquaintance of Furies forward and fellow Type 1 diabetic Anissa Gamble. On Gamble’s request, Furies GM Sami Jo Small reached out and invited Kacey and her team to come to the game as guests of the Furies, and they formed the most enthusiastic cheering section in the rink.

Three Stars

3rd: Shannon Stewart (1 assist)

2nd: Mariah Fujimagari (27 saves)

1st: Natalie Spooner (2 goals)

Markham Thunder 1 - Canadiennes de Montréal 5 ( Game Summary)

In a repeat of their opening day lineup, Markham started Nicole Brown, Jess Jones and Nicole Kosta at forward, with Laura Fortino and Daniella Matteucci on the back end and Erica Howe in net. Rookie netminder Elijah Milne-Price had her first game on the bench. Liz Knox and Alexis Woloschuk were the scratches.

Montréal countered with a superstar line of Marie-Philip Poulin, Ann-Sophie Bettez and Mélodie Daoust at forward, Erin Ambrose and rookie Taylor Willard on defence and Emerance Maschmeyer in goal.

Markham got an early power play as Kim Deschênes went off for hooking, but it was the Canadiennes who struck first. Halfway through the period Hilary Knight racked up her first goal since her return to the CWHL, putting Montréal up 1-0. Assists to Jill Saulnier and Erin Ambrose. Victoria Bach was called for tripping with just over five minutes to go in the period but the Thunder killed off without issue.

The second period got very interesting very quickly. The Thunder got another early power play, with Daoust in the box for cross checking less than a minute into the game. Not only did Markham fail to score, it was Daoust who scored not long after her penalty expired. Marie-Joëlle Allard earned her first CWHL point with the primary assist and Poulin had the secondary.

About thirty seconds later Jill Saulnier got her first goal as a Canadienne, assisted by fellow Olympian Lauriane Rougeau. The Thunder finally answered back a minute later when Jenna McParland netted her first of the season, with an assist from Brown. Karell Émard was called for a trip shortly thereafter, and momentum seemed to swing in Markham’s favour for a while. Unfortunately they couldn’t get anything more past Maschmeyer.

Geneviève Bannon, Montréal’s first pick in the 2018 draft, scored her first CWHL goal late in the period with an assist from fellow rookie Maude Gélinas and veteran Ambrose. Laura Stacey was sent off for a trip with seconds left in the period, meaning Markham would start the third on the kill.

Unfortunately for the Thunder, the Canadiennes finally cashed in on a power play, with Saulnier scoring her second of the game, assisted by Katia Clément-Heydra and Sarah Lefort. Hilary Knight has attracted a lot of the hype this season, her first full one with Montréal, but Saulnier is another Olympian acquisition that people should pay attention to.

Jocelyne Larocque sat for a body check late in the period but that was it for the Thunder, who were outshot 36-20 and outscored 5-1, their first loss of the season.

Three stars

3rd: Katia Clément-Heydra (1 assist)

2nd: Emerance Maschmeyer (19 saves)

1st: Jillian Saulnier (2 goals, 1 assist)

Toronto and Markham finish their series tomorrow afternoon - start time for the Furies is 2:40 pm and for the Thunder is 1:30 pm. Tickets are available online.