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Toronto Furies hold off Markham Thunder for the overtime win 4-3

Sarah Nurse led her team to victory with a four point night.

Chris Tanouye/CWHL

For the second half of this home-and-home weekend, the Furies “home” was Jacob’s Creek Arena in Oakville.

Shea Tiley got the start in net for Toronto with Renata Fast and Emma Greco on the blueline. Julie Allen, Jess Vella and Carolyne Prévost started on forward. Brittany Howard, who the broadcast mentioned was in a minor car accident this week, rejoined the lineup while Jessica Platt joined Amanda Makela and Jordan Hampton as the scratches.

Erica Howe took the net for Markham. Starting up front were Laura Stacey, Jenna McParland and Kristen Richards with Daniella Matteucci and Jocelyne Larocque on defence. Nicole Kosta is still out of the lineup, and Dania Simmonds was on the game sheet. It’s not unusual for retired players to end up on the extended roster but it is odd for them to be the ones called up. UPDATE: Per the team, Simmonds was not at the game, it was an error on the game sheet.

Before the game, Furies captain Natalie Spooner was honoured for her 100th CWHL game.

First period

The Furies started off with some good pace and some early scoring chances. Unfortunately Erica Howe was clearly on her game as well. She dealt with shots from in close, traffic in her crease and some enthusiastic poking at rebounds, but kept everything out.

The first power play of the game went to the Thunder when Brittany Howard was called for a bodycheck. She and Jess Jones got into it a bit after the contact so they were also served with offsetting minors for roughing. Anissa Gamble served the extra two minutes on Howard’s behalf.

The Furies penalty kill looked quite good, fairly aggressive, with a number of shorthanded chances. Sarah Nurse and Renata Fast combined for a chance but Fast had to make the shot on her backhand and Howe had no trouble stopping it. About a minute and a half into the kill, Toronto drew a call of their own and Richards went to the box for hooking.

The power play also looked good, well structured, keeping the puck in the correct zone and generating a few attempts. It was perhaps the messiest attempt that actually resulted in the first goal of the game. A scramble in front of Howe eventually ended up with the puck in the net. Sarah Nurse was initially announced as the goalscorer, but a correction was issued later and Mackenzie MacNeil was credited with her first CWHL goal, with assists from Nurse and Natalie Spooner. The assist was Spooner’s 100th CWHL point, making her a career point per game player, which isn’t too shabby.

Toronto kept the pressure on Howe, including an attempt from Emma Greco. Their second goal of the game came just three minutes after their first, this time a Natalie Spooner goal. She ripped a shot off on the fly and it went right in over Howe’s shoulder.

This time the Thunder answered back promptly, with rookie Kelly Gribbons going bar down on Tiley to get her first CWHL goal thirty seconds after the Spooner goal, making it 2-1. Taylor Woods got the assist.

Jocelyne Larocque went off for body checking. The Furies power play got a little too caught up in passing and Jamie Lee Rattray took advantage for a shorthanded chance. Emily Fulton took her down rather than allow the shot and ended up in the box with a body checking call of her own (it looked more like a trip, but two minutes is two minutes). Mellissa Channell had a few shots during the 4 on 4 but couldn’t beat Howe.

Tiley stopped a Victoria Bach shot on the Thunder power play and the net came off for the first but far from the last time in the game.

Channell had another lovely sequence where she nearly managed to set up Howard, and then came back and prevented a Thunder chance the other way.

Tiley dealt well with more shots from Markham, including Rattray and Megan Bozek, who set up camp at the point and was just sending in clappers from there all game long.

Shots for the period were even at ten apiece.

Second period

The second period started off well for the Furies, Prévost getting an early chance.

Howe had some trouble with a puck but managed to keep it out. The traffic in front of her net got a little heated after the whistle. Matteucci was the only one going to the box on a roughing call but this was foreshadowing of penalties yet to come. All in all the game would end with 28 penalty minutes on ten calls against Markham and 40 (!) minutes on 12 calls against Toronto. Intra-GTA games get just a little chippy.

Fulton got one of the few shots on Howe before Bozek cleared the zone and the Thunder managed to keep the Furies out of the offensive zone for a while. Larocque got in a shorthanded shot. Tiley saved it, the puck came out to the neutral zone, Fulton collided with Laura Stacey and the refs didn’t like what they saw. After some discussion they were given offsetting penalties: two minutes each for roughing, plus a ten minute misconduct each. The collision didn’t really look like much, I suspect the post-whistle activity and chirping was what earned each of them the ten minutes.

The Furies power play continued with a shot from Howard that missed the net.

Julia Fedeski was the next player to the box, this time on a crosscheck. The Furies penalty kill started off with the second unit, who were sort of timid and allowed the Thunder to pin them in. There were some issues with the net again, this time following a Bozek shot. The first unit came on and Nurse and Spooner created a two on one chance shorthanded. Howe was down and out but the Thunder defender kept Spooner tied up enough she couldn’t get off a proper shot.

The Thunder continued to press following the end of the power play, keeping the puck in the Furies zone until Rattray lost an edge. Things were looking less organized for Toronto than they had in the first period.

The parade to the box continued, this time Kristen Barbara was called for a trip on Howard. Early on Tiley had some issues handling the puck behind her own net and narrowly missed feeding the puck to a Markham player. The Furies power play kept things largely in the offensive zone and got a lot of pucks to the net but Erica Howe stood tall.

Despite all the special teams play, Victoria Bach managed to tie the game up for the Thunder at 5 on 5 with a very nice shot from the middle of the ice. Assists to Jess Jones and Nicole Brown.

The second period had been slower paced than the first up until the Bach goal but things started to pick up again from that point on.

Sena Suzuki went off for a very uncharacteristic crosscheck. Tiley saw attempts from Bozek and Bach again before Spooner sprang Nurse on a shorthanded breakaway. Nurse went one on one with Howe, who was equal to the task. Tiley dealt with a Stacey shot and then had to deal with her net coming off once more.

Next to the box was Brooke Webster on a roughing call with just under three minutes to go in the period. Sarah Nurse again demonstrated her talented hands when she had to juggle the puck to keep play onside and followed it up with another shot on goal.

Despite a literal last-second push by the Furies, the score stayed tied to end the second. Shots for the period were 15 to 10 in favour of the Thunder.

Third period

Yet again, Toronto started off the period with possession, looking to make noise early. An attempt by Nurse ended up with Laura Stacey off for interference.

The second power play unit started things off and couldn’t quite get going. The Thunder cleared the puck and then wouldn’t allow the Furies in any farther than the neutral zone. When the first unit came on, they had a little more luck but they also didn’t have a lot of time left. Spooner had a chance at the goalmouth but the puck was bouncing and she couldn’t knock it in. Howe also made a nice stick save on another shot by Nurse. (CWHL goalies are going to get really tired of Sarah Nurse really quickly.)

Almost immediately after the Stacey penalty expired Anissa Gamble went off for goalie interference and it was the Thunder’s turn for the advantage. Unfortunately for them “advantage” was not what it looked like when Sarah Nurse beat Jocelyne Larocque to a puck and just kept on going to score shorthanded.

Markham got right back at it with shots from Fortino and Bozek. Rattray somehow missed an open net which was very fortunate for Toronto.

Spooner and Richards collided with no call. Spooner went down on the ice clutching at her head but did get up and back into the play eventually.

Howe’s net came off again after an attempt by Howard. I know mediajunkie was complaining about the nets in Thornhill but this seemed to be even worse.

The teams continued to exchange chances, including a heck of a shot by Suzuki, which you don’t see every day.

13:41 into the period was where things really started to go wrong for the Furies. Jess Vella collided with Laura Fortino and was called for bodychecking. Just over a minute into the kill Channell sent the puck out over the glass and went off for delay of game, creating a 5 on 3 for Markham. Markham called a timeout in order to ensure they capitalized, and it worked.

With Spooner, Nurse and Fast on the kill for Toronto, Victoria Bach found herself all alone in front of Tiley. She went top shelf and tied the game again with just under five minutes left. Assists went to Rattray and Webster.

The Thunder smelled blood and kept pushing for the go ahead goal. They drew yet another penalty but kept control of the puck long enough that Howe went off for the extra skater. Finally Tiley gloved a Bozek shot and Renata Fast went off for two and ten on a boarding call. Shannon Stewart served the two. There were a few seconds of 5 on 3 again but they expired without incident.

Spooner fed Nurse for yet another shorthanded shot. Nurse ended up going into the boards right afterwards, apparently courtesy of Fortino, but there was no call.

Spooner got a shot of her own off at 5 on 5 but Howe was there.

With less than a minute to go Richards was called for a trip on Howard and the Furies went back on the power play. Channell and Howard both got shots on net but the game would need overtime. The Thunder again outshot the Furies 16-10.

OT

The start of overtime was delayed by some technical issues with the clock, but eventually things got back underway with the Furies still on the power play, this time 4 on 3. The Furies used their advantage to take control of the period.

Channell fed Spooner, blocker save by Howe.

Nurse shot high and the puck came out of the Thunder zone for a moment.

Spooner faked a shot, held the puck, waited, took the shot... save Howe.

A shot by Channell didn’t quite hit the net.

Finally, Sarah Nurse sent a great shot in from the middle of the ice and cemented her place as the hero of the game, winning it 4-3. Spooner and Channell both got assists on the play.

Three stars

3. Shea Tiley (38 saves)

2. Victoria Bach (2 goals)

1. Sarah Nurse (2 goals, 2 assists)

Notes

  • Sarah Nurse was absolutely dominant in this game. She really is coming into her own and she’s exciting as hell to watch.
  • Mellissa Channell and Emma Greco both had good games tonight, Greco more so in the first period, but Channell continues to impress on almost every shift.
  • I don’t know if there’s been some sort of league crackdown but there have been a lot of ten minute misconducts this season.
  • Megan Bozek slapshots from the point never get less terrifying no matter how many times your goalie makes the save.
  • For anyone counting, Natalie Spooner is at 102 points in 100 CWHL games.
  • After a few shaky outings this was definitely a better game for Shea Tiley in goal. She was positionally sound and didn’t look too frantic. Hopefully she can keep it up.

The Markham Thunder hit the road next weekend for two games in Calgary before they come back to face Toronto again at the Mastercard Centre for a rare Tuesday night game at 7:45 pm on December 4th. Tickets are available online and at the door, and the Tuesday game will be streamed.