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CWHL Recap: Furies downed by the Inferno, Thunder victorious in China

Toronto scores 4 but gives up 7 while Markham takes 5 of 6 points on their road trip.

Goalie Shea Tiley (35) and forward Sarah Nurse (16) of the Toronto Furies Chris Tanouye/Canadian Women’s Hockey League

Toronto Furies 4 - Calgary Inferno 7

After a couple of weeks off for 4 Nations Cup, the Toronto Furies were back in action tonight, this time against the Calgary Inferno, who are top of the league in win percentage, but came into the game third in points (the Inferno have played half the amount of games that first place Shenzhen Rays have played).

This was also the first game of Toronto’s partnership with Sports Canada TV, which will see all home games (with the possible exception of next weekend’s “home game” that takes place in Oakville) streamed for the rest of the season. Dave Bidini has also joined the broadcast crew. Games seem to be available on the Sports Canada Youtube channel. You can watch a replay of this game here.

I was looking forward to seeing Alex Rigsby play goal in person but alas it was not to be, as Rigsby did not travel to Toronto with the Inferno. Instead, Annie Bélanger got the start. In front of her were Brigette Lacquette and Halli Krzyzaniak on defence and Blayre Turnbull, Brianne Jenner and Venla Hovi up front. Yes, sure, we’re Calgary, we can have a starting lineup of all national team skaters and still have national team players on the bench ready to relieve them. This is fine.

Toronto countered with Shea Tiley in net, Mellissa Channell and Megan Quinn on the blue line, and Mackenzie MacNeil, Sarah Nurse and Natalie Spooner at forward. Jessica Platt, Amanda Makela and of course Jordan Hampton were the scratches. If my math is right we might see Hampton in a December match, although if she needs any sort of rehab January is more likely.

First period

Toronto started off the first by having a small conference at centre before the puck dropped. Not sure what they were planning but it seemed sort of intense.

The Furies had some chances early as the Inferno seemed to be giving them rather a lot of space right in front of the net. Spooner and MacNeil had some chances and Carolyne Prévost was gifted the puck by Jenner but Bélanger made the save.

Shea Tiley also made her own donation to an Inferno player after having to play the puck, but stopped that too.

Turnbull absolutely bowled over a Fury (we’re all very shocked that Blayre Turnbull would ever lay a hit on anyone, I’m sure) and went to the box for bodychecking late in the first half. The best chance to come out of the ensuing Toronto power play was a shot by Renata Fast that Bélanger stopped. The power play ended with Rebecca Johnston sending a shot high over the Furies net.

The first goal of the game came from Natalie Spooner, a nifty combination of stickhandling and luck that saw her try to stuff the puck in the net on one side, keep control of the puck when Bélanger blocked her, and slide it around to the hole on the other side before Bélanger could move back.

Unfortunately Venla Hovi answered back about a minute and a half later, putting one over Tiley’s pad as she was grabbing for it. Assists went to Jenner and Lacquette.

The Furies had a few more chances, including a lovely sequence from Nurse when she stripped the puck from an Inferno player, missed the net with her own shot, and then was on the doorstop when another Fury sent a shot in. Sadly, Bélanger refused to let out a rebound for her to play with.

Rebecca Johnston scored the second Inferno goal with just over two minutes left in the period, a two on one play that from my end of the rink looked like another save by Tiley, until the Inferno started celebrating. Assists from Kacey Bellamy and Rebecca Leslie.

Shots for the period were 8 to 6 in favour of Calgary

Second period

Tiley had to make a nifty glove save almost right off the bat, but Brittany Howard and Shiann Darkangelo gave Furies fans some hope by tying the score at two apiece. Howard battled hard to get her first CWHL goal but at least Darkangelo was there to make the effort count. Goal to Darkangelo, assist to Howard.

A puck hit the knob of Tiley’s stick and looked like it might hop on into the net, but instead it bounced harmlessly out of the way. A few seconds later a battle in front of the net landed Turnbull back in the box for slashing. The Furies second power play of the night didn’t go any better than their first.

Five on five play had only just resumed when Mellissa Channell not only managed to redirect an oncoming Calgary player just enough to keep the shot wide, but then bailed out her goalie by making a save when Tiley went too far out of the net to play a puck. Channell only has one assist in eight games but the whole rink saw it takes more than points to be a useful defender on that play.

The next goal came when Sena Suzuki lost a battle behind the net. The puck was fed out in front and Turnbull put it in to put the Inferno back on top 3-2. Jenner and Lacquette got the assists. The refs then had to hunt for the puck, shaking out the net and checking with Tiley that it wasn’t on her somewhere. Turned out it was right at the back of the net, under the frame — they had to move the net find it.

Halli Krzyzaniak was called for bodychecking halfway through the period. I’m not sure the Furies got a shot on the power play. The puck came down to Tiley at least twice and then Spooner futzed around in her own zone as the penalty expired.

The Inferno finally got a power play of their own when Emma Greco went off for tripping. It took Brianna Decker 41 seconds to capitalize. It looked like Tiley thought she had made the save, unfortunately the puck managed to make it through and the Inferno went up 4-2. Assists went to Bellamy and Johnston.

There were a few nice defensive plays by Quinn and Greco, and another “Sarah Nurse is very good” moment where she just danced the puck around a couple of players, but the period ended with no further scoring.

Shots in the period were 11 to 9 for the Inferno.

Third period

Jess Vella got Toronto into penalty trouble early when she got caught covering the puck with her hand. Blayre Turnbull took advantage of a rebound off of Tiley’s pads to score the power play goal and put an end to Tiley’s night. Johnston and Decker got the assists and Elaine Chuli took the net for the rest of the game.

Unfortunately, Chuli wasn’t enough to stop the bleeding as Katelyn Gosling got her first of the season two minutes later, assisted by Louise Warren.

Renata Fast made her way into the Inferno zone under pressure. She lost control of the puck but managed to draw a penalty. Kacey Bellamy went to the box for, I think hooking, but at the time of writing neither the penalty nor Brittany Howard’s ensuing goal are on the game sheet. That’s right - it took her eight games and countless attempts, but Howard finally got her first CWHL goal. She had to fight for it, but it well and truly crossed the line.

Assists went to Nurse and Spooner and apparently the Furies became the first team to score a power play goal against the Inferno all season. (Is this why it’s not on the game sheet? Is there an Inferno Penalty Kill Conspiracy? My column...)

About a minute later we got some 4 on 4 hockey when Emily Fulton and Brianna Decker went off for crosschecking and roughing respectively. The best adjective to describe 4 on 4 was “messy”. Rebecca Leslie managed to score, assisted by Zoe Hickel and Rebecca Johnston but Krzyzaniak was called for her second bodycheck of the game and gave the Furies another power play.

Renata Fast got the last penalty of the night, a roughing call. No scoring while she was off. Back at five on five Howard got a chance at an errant puck in front of Bélanger but was denied.

The final goal of the game was a beauty by Sarah Nurse. She came into the Inferno zone with 30 seconds left and showed off her stickhandling skills before firing a perfect shot up and over Bélanger to make the final score 7-4. Howard got an assist on the goal, giving her a three point night.

Shots for the period were 11 to 7 in favour of Calgary.

Three stars

3. Brittany Howard (1 goal, 2 assists)

2. Brianna Decker (1 goal, 1 assist, 2 penalty minutes)

1. Rebecca Johnston (1 goal, 3 assists)

Notes

Sarah Nurse is really quite something and yet I still get the sense she hasn’t quite put it together at the CWHL level, which is both scary and great to think about.

Brittany Howard racked up more points in this game than she had coming into it. Hopefully now that one goal has gone in, many more will follow.

I would like to nominate Mellissa Channell for some sort of award for that save.

I’m not going to lay the blame for any of her losses entirely on Shea Tiley’s shoulders, but she hasn’t been stealing games for Toronto either. I’m hoping Elaine Chuli, who has a winning track record in the CWHL, will get a bit of a look while Tiley gets a rest and some time to figure out what’s up.

Markham Thunder vs Shenzhen Rays

On the other side of the world, the Markham Thunder spent this past week in Shenzhen, playing a three-game series against the Rays. Erica Howe started all three games for the Thunder, while Kimberly Newell played the first game of the series for the Rays, and Noora Räty started the last two.

Game One was back and forth, starting off with a Rachel Llanes power play goal a little more than halfway through the first, and then the Thunder and Rays traded goals the rest of the game. Kristen Barbara of the Thunder tied it up at 2-2 to send the game to overtime, but Jessica Wong put a goal past Howe two and a half minutes into OT and gave Shenzhen the win.

Game Two also went to overtime—after Markham took a two-goal lead in the second period with goals from Jess Jones and Jamie Lee Rattray, Llanes and Alex Carpenter tied it up for Shenzhen in the third. This time, it was Jones who put the OT winner past Räty (good week for OT winners from people named Jess, apparently!).

Markham took the series with a Game Three win, pulling out to a 2-0 lead with goals from Barbara (technically, it bounced off Wong’s stick, but it was credited to Barbara) and Becca King that Shenzhen wasn’t able to surmount. Emma Woods got them within one, but with seconds left, Victoria Bach put an exclamation point on Markham’s win, making it 3-1.

The Toronto Furies are back in action this afternoon at 3:15 pm, looking to score a few more goals and maybe even up the series. The Toronto Maple Leafs are supporting the game, sending Darcy Tucker and Carlton to represent, and promising a few Leafs prizes. Tickets are available online or at the door. The game will again be streamed.