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CWHL Recap: Furies lose close one to Inferno 3-2

Goals from Fulton and Nurse were not enough to complete the comeback.

Chris Tanouye/Canadian Women’s Hockey League

Today’s game was sponsored by the Toronto Maple Leafs, which mostly meant that Carlton the Bear joined Kipling in her mascot duties, there were Leafs t-shirts to be caught, one of the Leafs in-arena hosts did some of the hosting duties, and Darcy Tucker made the ceremonial puck drop.

For a game in which bodychecking is illegal I’m not sure what the logic is of sending Darcy Tucker as the representative of the Maple Leafs, especially as the Easter Seals skate had just wrapped up literally feet away from the Furies rink, so there were plenty of Leafs to spare. Current backup goalie Garret Sparks was apparently at the game and was even interviewed on the broadcast — he’s even played with women’s hockey players. Apart from the stream he wasn’t used in any promotional capacity that I was aware of. However, nobody asked me, I just write the recaps.

For the rematch against Calgary Elaine Chuli got her third start of the season. In front of her were Emma Greco and Renata Fast on defence with Carolyne Prévost, Jess Vella and Julie Allen at forward. Jessica Platt drew back into the lineup, with Anissa Gamble joining Amanda Makela and Jordan Hampton as the scratches.

Annie Bélanger took the net again for Calgary, and the Inferno started a “torpedo” lineup right off the bat, with Rebecca Johnston, Rebecca Leslie, Brianna Decker and Zoe Hickel as the forwards, and Kacey Bellamy the lone defender. (Jared Book has a description of Shannon Miller’s torpedo strategy and its strengths and weaknesses over at Eyes on the Prize.)

First period

Mackenzie MacNeil and Natalie Spooner combined for an early chance but Bélanger kept the puck out and Spooner ended up on her ass.

The first goal went to the Inferno. Blayre Turnbull took a shot to Chuli’s right and Brianne Jenner picked up the rebound to her left and sent the bouncing puck into the net just one minute and forty seconds into the game. Brigette Lacquette got the secondary assist.

About a minute later Spooner was sent to the box for hooking. Calgary went two for three on the power play last night and sure enough they did it again this afternoon. To the Furies’ credit, they held the Inferno power play off for all but the last five seconds. However, they could not get the puck out of their own zone and thus had some very tired penalty killers. Cue Jess Vella sending the puck not quite to the Calgary blueline, triggering a line change. This gave Jenner the opportunity to go one one one with Chuli... and she won. 2-0 Calgary less than five minutes into the game. Halli Krzyzaniak was credited with the assist.

The Furies kept fighting though. Emily Fulton, Spooner, Fast, Shiann Darkangelo, Brittany Howard... they all took a crack at Bélanger and were either denied or missed the net. Chuli didn’t look rattled either, she kept it together and kept the puck out of the net.

Greco took the second Toronto penalty, another hooking call with eight minutes to go. Again the Furies had trouble getting the puck out, although they managed it earlier than in the first kill, and drew a penalty as well. Brianne Jenner decided she wanted to do a little bit of everything that period and took two for slashing around forty seconds into the Greco penalty. This gave us some 4 on 4 action to watch, as well as a short Furies power play.

At first it looked like the extra space available at 4 on 4 was going to keep things entirely in the Inferno’s favour, but the Furies turned it around and got a few chances of their own, including a nifty attempt by Sarah Nurse, who caught a pass right on the Calgary blueline and went in, but shot high. Spooner had a couple of attempts around the net as well.

With 3:24 left, Fast was sent off for bodychecking. This was the Furies best penalty kill yet. Not only did Calgary not score but Toronto got some decent time in the offensive zone.

Darkangelo had a chance at a loose puck in front of Bélanger in the last minute of play but couldn’t corral it in time to make a shot.

Shots for the period were 12 to 7 in favour of the Inferno.

Second period

The Furies got an early power play when Brianna Decker was called for slashing less than 30 seconds into the period. Toronto wasn’t quite as dominant on the power play as Calgary had been, having to chase down the puck and bring it back in more than once, but they kept Bélanger on her toes anyway. Notably both Nurse and Howard got shots in on net.

It was Fulton who managed to finally get a puck past Bélanger, a gorgeous shot that went in top corner to cut the deficit to one. It was Fulton’s first goal of the season and Spooner’s second assist.

Just over a minute later, however, Rebeccas Leslie and Johnston came into the Furies zone with some give and go action. I think Chuli might have been a little screened by her own defence, but whatever it was, Johnston put the Inferno up 3-1.

Kacey Bellamy went off for slashing a few seconds later and the best chance of that power play went to Shannon Stewart who, all respect to her, is not really the player you want alone in front of the net trying to score.

The next Furies power play, however, went much better. Krzyzaniak was called for a trip and it took Nurse 40 seconds to make her regret her sins. You don’t leave Sarah Nurse open in front of the net like this, it’s just silly. Assists to Spooner and Howard.

Howard actually got set up with a gorgeous pass just a few seconds after this goal, but she lost the puck to the Inferno defender before she could get a shot off.

Spooner and Darkangelo combined for another chance, and then Allen went off for hooking with 1:59 left in the period. Howard got a shorthanded breakaway but missed the net. A little more target practice, a little better timing and she’s going to be so dangerous.

Calgary led the period in shots again but only just, this time 11 to 10.

Third period

Having to start the period on a one second penalty kill is just weird. Allen was basically out of the box the moment the puck hit the ice.

In the first minute of the period MacNeil pounced on a rebound off of a shot by Nurse but couldn’t quite stuff it past Bélanger’s pad. “Almost but not enough” was basically the story of the period for the Furies.

MacNeil centred a puck for Howard, but Bélanger beat her to it.

Allen missed the net.

Nurse showed off her amazing hands yet again by stealing a puck from the Inferno but Bélanger made a glove save.

Mellissa Channell sent a hard shot from the point just wide.

Meanwhile Chuli faced down Turnbull and stopped her cold.

A slapshot from Spooner didn’t make it in the net.

Chuli used some sort of magic spell to keep a bouncing puck out of her net.

Nurse came into the Inferno zone with the puck, sent a beautiful drop pass right on the tape of Spooner’s stick... and there was an Inferno defender in the way of Spooner’s shot.

With 3:20 left in the period Renata Fast was called for a crosscheck, to loud objections from the Furies bench. Both Howard and Spooner got shorthanded chances, and then with a minute and a half to go in the game, Spooner drew a penalty.

Lacquette went off for tripping, Toronto called their timeout, and things got real as the Furies pressed with chance after chance, not letting up until the buzzer went to end the game.

Shots for the period were 10 to 9 in favour of the Furies.

Three stars

3. Rebecca Johnston (game winning goal)

2. Sarah Nurse (1 goal)

1. Brianne Jenner (2 goals, 2 penalty minutes)

Notes

Julie Allen’s been taking a lot of physical punishment this weekend — blocking shots and generally getting in Calgary’s way. She actually caused a delayed offside yesterday because she was slow to get up while the puck went out and in and back out again of the Calgary zone.

Sarah Nurse’s hands. Annie raved about them all last season and in the offseason but she definitely has the best hands on the team and they’re a joy to watch.

The Furies have been making good use of the boards to move the puck up - avoiding icing and opposing players by bouncing the puck off the boards to get it to someone further up or just out of the zone. Nurse even bounced the puck around a defender and caught it on the other side.

Despite the early goals I think Chuli looked good in net. She made 29 saves and generally seemed pretty calm.

Sena Suzuki keeps getting better. I think she’s had less ice time so far than she did in her last season with the Furies but I’ve noticed she’s getting faster and faster, not only in her skating but in her reaction times.

The Furies are back in action next weekend with a home and home against the Markham Thunder. Saturday’s game will be 7:30 pm at the Thornhill Community Centre and then the Furies will host Markham in Oakville on the Sunday, 3:30 pm at Joshua’s Creek Arena. Tickets are available online or at the door. UPDATE Sunday’s game will also be streamed live.