The CWHL schedule resumed tonight with the final GTA rivalry game of the year. It was the Markham Thunder’s Do It For Daron fundraiser. The Thunder forwent their normal green jerseys for purple in support of mental health initiatives for youth.
Amanda Makela started in net for Toronto, with Sami Jo Small on the bench. Sonja van der Bliek has not played since January 20, due to what was described as “a nagging injury”. Sydney Kidd seems to be back to defence alongside Shannon Moulson on the starting pair and Carolyne Prévost, Emily Fulton and Brittany Zuback made up the starting forward line.
The Furies started with possession, Brittany Zuback shooting wide on Howe, but it was Markham who dominated the period.
Oh my ! @ratt26 with an absolute beaut to open the scoring. Rattray has a 12 game point streak going. @k_rich19 and @hartwick7 pick up their 9th and 2nd assist respectively. @ThunderCWHL with an early 1-0 lead against the Furies #CWHL pic.twitter.com/vEKg9BOppU— Women's Sports Highlights (@WSportHilites) February 25, 2018
Although Toronto got a few opportunities (slapshot from Jessica Platt, some nice skating from Hayley Williams, shot attempts from Prévost and Jenna Dingeldein), Markham maintained the lion’s share of possession until Kristen Richards was called for hooking and the Furies got the first power play of the game.
Jenna Dingeldein came up big for Toronto on the power play, tying the game on a hard shot through traffic past Howe. 1-1, with assists to Vella and Williams.
A screened shot on the PP and Furies tie it up at 1. @jennadingeldein pops the bottle for her 8th of the season. @Jvellz12 and @haywilliathlete pick up the s. @TorontoCWHL ties it up at 1 all against Markham #CWHL pic.twitter.com/XUd1IeWOLc— Women's Sports Highlights (@WSportHilites) February 25, 2018
Shortly thereafter, Sydney Kidd was also sent off for hooking and Markham had the advantage. Their power play was not as effective as Toronto’s, especially early on when they allowed a shorthanded breakaway by Jess Vella. Howe handled that and Markham settled into the offensive zone, generating a few close chances of their own. Toronto had real trouble clearing the puck but survived the kill.
Jenna McParland had a chance for the Thunder at even strength, but that was more or less it as barely 30 seconds after their power play, Jamie Lee Rattray went to the box for roughing.
Dingeldein attempted to recreate her previous power play goal but was denied. Hayley Williams had a close chance but no dice.
Moulson went off for the third hooking call of the night. Lindsay Grigg put a shot on for Taylor Woods, no love. Another shot and then Megan Bozek held the line. There were a few nice saves by Makela before the net came off. The puck came out with less than a minute left. Barbara brought it back in, deterrred by Beazer. A McParland shot was also blocked by Beazer.
The penalty expired and Toronto spent the last few seconds of the period attempting to get the puck into the Thunder zone.
Shots in the period were 12-5 for the Thunder. There were a lot of blocked shots this period but Markham certainly did have control of the puck for most of the time.
The second period started with early pressure on Makela. The Thunder kept her very busy, and there were a lot of faceoffs in the Toronto zone.
There was a brief respite when the Furies got a 2 on 1 opportunity, with a shot by Zuback, but Howe made the save and the puck headed right back to the other end of the ice.
The pattern continued a few times, with a couple of zone entries for Toronto and even a short period where they actually got themselves set up in the Thunder zone, but Markham kept getting the puck out and giving Makela a lot of work to do.
Jenna Dingeldein made a valiant attempt, going in 1 on 3 but the lack of support kept her from doing anything particularly dangerous.
Alexa Aramburu was called for interference, putting the Furies on the kill. It took Nicole Brown less than 30 seconds to get her second goal of the season, banging in a rebound from Kosta to give Markham the lead again, 2-1. Secondary assist went to Jenna McParland.
Megan Bozek showed off her skills in the first of a couple of such instances in the game, going around most of the Furies on the ice to get to the net. Makela had the save and then the net came off its moorings in the ensuing confusion.
The Furies went back on the power play shortly afterwards. Karolina Urban got the fourth hooking penalty of the night. It wasn’t Toronto’s best showing on the power play, as the Thunder got the puck out a number of times. Brooke Beazer in particular did some good work though.
Markham stayed opportunistic, sending a pass to Urban as she came back on the ice, but she couldn’t quite settle the puck and lost the chance.
Play was a little back and forth for a bit, with attempts by Zuback, Vella and Michelle Saunders for the Furies, and Skeats, McParland and Bozek for the Thunder. The Thunder eventually gained control again and started pressing, but the fifth hooking call of the game went against them and Woloschuk went to the box.
The Furies power play featured a lot of passing and one notable shot by Dingeldein before Jessica Hartwick went down attempting to take the puck out and Hayley Williams got the final hooking call in the game, making it 4 on 4 for over a minute.
Prévost and Kidd managed a shorthanded 2 on 1 but Dania Simmonds got in the way to break up the chance.
Bozek dominated the end of the power play but the Thunder couldn’t score. Ella Stewart crashed into her own net as the Williams penalty expired and the net came off.
Furies were called for icing with 3:16 to go. Off the ensuing faceoff won by Karolina Urban, Kristen Barbara got the puck to Devon Skeats in front of the net to make it 3-1 Markham.
Kristen Barbara with some slick mitts to get the puck to @Skeatsyy for the 2 goal lead. @UrbanKarolina with the face off win. @ThunderCWHL lead 3-1 over the Toronto Furies #CWHL pic.twitter.com/SrQYHNB2ba— Women's Sports Highlights (@WSportHilites) February 25, 2018
Brittany Zuback tried to answer back immediately but her quick shot hit Howe pretty much dead centre. She did get an assist a few seconds later on the Furies second goal, sending a cross-crease to Prévost who put the puck in behind Howe. 3-2 Markham, secondary assist to Emily Fulton.
Things got nasty half a minute later. Hayley Williams went into the boards hard courtesy of Jessica Hartwick and she was down on the ice for a while. Jenna Dingeldein was instantly out for blood and things got messy in the corner before the refs broke things up. Williams was eventually helped up on her feet and left the ice under her own power, but went right off to the locker room with just under 2:00 left in the period.
It took the officials quite a lot of time to sort out the penalties resulting. Eventually, Hartwick was removed from the game with a five minute major for boarding, served by Megan Delay. Dingeldein and Ella Stewart were given roughing penalties for Toronto, coincidental with roughing calls on Dania Simmonds and Jamie Lee Rattray.
Zuback had another chance on the power play but was denied. Taylor Woods almost managed a shorthanded breakaway for Markham. Cassidy Delainey combined with Carolyne Prévost for a chance, stopped by Howe and that was about it for the period.
Shots were 8-7 Thunder, again with a number of blocks on both ends.
The Furies power play to start the third involved a couple of good short handed chances for Markham and one post for Shannon Moulson. Not quite what they were looking for.
The players on coincidental minors were trapped in their respective penalty boxes for nearly seven minutes, as the first whistle of the period was on an icing call against the Furies with around 12:30 left in the game.
About a minute later, Jessica Platt went off for a bodycheck and Nicole Brown got her second goal of the game on the ensuing power play on a one-timer from the point. 4-2 Thunder, assist to McParland.
The Rattray line continued giving Makela trouble.
Toronto managed to get some extended zone time but Nicole Brown got the puck again for Markham.
What looked to be an excellent save by Makela was spoiled as Jenna McParland put the rebound in, 5-2 Thunder. Kosta and Simmonds got the assists.
Amanda Makela with an amazing first save on McParland. @JennaMcParland stays with it to score on the second attempt. @KostieBear7 with her 2nd assist of the game, and @dsimmonds19 has her 6th assist of the season.@ThunderCWHL lead the Furies 5-2 #CWHL pic.twitter.com/Hyc2Mv629H— Women's Sports Highlights (@WSportHilites) February 25, 2018
Another roughing penalty for the Thunder, this time to Karolina Urban. It took the Furies some time to set up, but once they did, the puck stayed in the Markham zone the whole time. Vella, Dingeldein and Zuback all had chances. Dingeldein’s in particular was blocked by a defender, but the puck went up in the air and Howe had to field the puck anyway.
Chances at both ends as the time wound down. Jamie Lee Rattray went around most of the Furies defenders but couldn’t bury the puck.
Fulton was called for a bodycheck on Bozek with just over a minute left in the game and Toronto ended the game on the penalty kill.
Total shots were 28-22 in favour of Markham. Toronto had their moments but generally it was not their best game.
3. Brooke Beazer, Toronto Furies
2. Kristen Barbara, Markham Thunder (1 assist)
1. Nicole Brown, Markham Thunder (2 goals)
As suggested by her inclusion in the three stars, this was a great game for Beazer, who seemed to do everything but score. Certainly, she was invaluable defensively.
Hayley Williams did not return to the play in the third period. Toronto only has two more games left so there’s a possibility that was Williams’ last game of the season, which would be unfortunate.
Nicole Kosta had a few nice plays in the game, there were no visible effects from the hit that took her out for a few games.
While Jamie Lee Rattray wasn’t exactly carrying the offense for the Thunder, she seemed to be part of a lot of the scoring attempts, either setting up or shooting.
It was mentioned on the broadcast (may have also been mentioned on one of the Sportsnet broadcasts) that if Kunlun Red Star maintain their place in the top two of the league, their “home ice advantage” for the semi-finals will be a neutral site somewhere in North America. Interestingly, Kunlun and Vanke will play their final two games of the season in a series against each other at a rink in the Boston area.
With the win, the Thunder sit in the final playoff spot but they’re only a point ahead of Vanke, who play Montréal twice before Markham’s next game.
Markham and Toronto are both back at it next weekend. The Furies host the Boston Blades in their final series of the season, and the Thunder host the Calgary Inferno. The Saturday night Markham game will be streamed. Otherwise, tickets for all games are available on the CWHL website.