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CWHL Recap: Markham Thunder roll over the Boston Blades and into the playoffs

Four points from returning Olympian Laura Stacey and a shutout from Erica Howe clinched the final playoff spot.

Jamie Lee Rattray had a milestone night for the Thunder.
Jess Bazal - CWHL

In their first attempt to clinch the final playoff spot, Markham brought out the big guns, and it worked!

While captain Jocelyne Larocque made her post-Olympic debut last weekend, Olympians Laura Fortino and Laura Stacey joined her in the lineup today just to put the nail in Boston’s (and Vanke’s) coffin.

This led to an all-Olympic pairing of Jocelyne Larocque and Laura Fortino on defense to start, with Laura Stacey, Nicole Kosta and Jenna McParland at forward and Erica Howe in goal. The Blades countered with Lauren Dahm in goal as always, Melissa Bizzari, Meghan Grieves and Casey Stathopoulos as the starting forwards, and Sato Kikuchi and Dru Burns on the blueline.

First period

This was a fairly even period in terms of zone time and Boston had their opportunities, but the scoring was all Markham.

It took Laura Stacey all of four minutes and 36 seconds into her CWHL return to score a goal, putting the Thunder up 1-0. Assists to Nicole Kosta and Dania Simmonds.

First power play in the game went to Boston, as Nicole Kosta was called for tripping at 13:14. Not a terrible power play but they couldn’t convert.

2-0 Thunder, a goal by Jamie Lee Rattray almost immediately after the penalty expired, a play that developed out of almost nothing. She grabbed a turnover in front of the Blades net and that was it. (Pro tip: giving the puck to Rattray in front of your net is Bad.)

Shortly thereafter the Thunder got their first power play when Megan Myers was sent off for delay of game on a faceoff.

Meghan Bozek went off for bodychecking with just under two minutes left in the period.

Shots at the end of the period were 13-7 in favour of Markham.

Second period

The Blades started the period with eight seconds left on the power play. They didn’t manage to score but kept the pressure on the Thunder for a few extra seconds.

Taryn Harris of the Blades was called for interference and the Thunder maintained steady pressure for the first half of the penalty before Boston finally got the puck out.

Devon Skeats found her way into the Boston zone, avoided a pair of defenders and sent a laser of a shot up over Dahm. 3-0 Thunder, with an assist to Ellie Seedhouse.

Taylor Woods was called for roughing and somehow that managed to be bad news for Boston. Jamie Lee Rattray went on a shorthanded breakaway to score her 100th CWHL point and make it 4-0 Thunder. The broadcast called it her 99th but per the team (and some math) it’s 100 points in 94 games played, nice going Rattray. Interestingly her points are evenly split at 50 goals and 50 assists. Jocelyne Larocque tallied her first assist of the season.

Markham outshot Boston 16-9 on the period.

Third period

In a comedy of errors Nicole Giannino got caught in the tunnel late and had to wait for a stoppage in play before she could join her team for the third.

Stacey fed a pass to Nicole Kosta, who scored her first CWHL goal, putting the Thunder up 5-0 and chasing Lauren Dahm.

After a timeout from the Blades, Amanda Carridi made her fourth appearance of the season, presumably to give Dahm a rest before she comes in to finish the season tomorrow.

Dru Burns was called for a trip on Fortino and the Thunder went back on the power play. The Blades kept the Thunder to the perimeter for a while but Rattray fed Laura McIntosh, who got it to Kristen Richards for the tip, 6-0. The secondary assist by Rattray is her 100th point as a Thunder player. (Her first CWHL point was a goal with Ottawa in the 2008-09 season).

Laura Stacey added to her point total, scoring the seventh goal. It’s possible that Olympians might be good. Jenna McParland was credited with the assist.

Eighth goal was by Dania Simmonds, a screened shot Carridi just didn’t see. Laura Stacey and Kristen Barbara had the assists, giving Stacey a four point night, in case anyone was in danger of putting the entire spotlight for the game on Rattray.

That was it for the scoring. The Thunder were called for two more penalties (too many men, served by McIntosh, and roughing by Becca King). Credit to the Blades who continued to put pressure on the Markham the whole game through, but even when they could beat the Thunder defence, they couldn’t beat Erica Howe.

Three stars

3. Erica Howe (22 save shutout)

2. Jamie Lee Rattray (2 goals, 1 assist, 101 career CWHL points, 100 career Thunder points)

1. Laura Stacey (2 goals, 2 assists)

Standings Watch

At the end of the night, with one game left, the third and fourth spots are sewn up. Markham clinched fourth with the win. Calgary lost to Montréal, leaving them three points back of Kunlun, so they can’t do better than third. Kunlun was upset by Vanke, so they currently sit in second, two points back of Montréal.

So we know that there will be a semi-final series in Montréal next weekend and one somewhere in the GTA. Tomorrow will settle who plays who: a win for Montréal puts them in first place. If Montréal loses and Kunlun wins, Kunlun will take first place by virtue of their head to head record of 4-1 against the Canadiennes.

Tomorrow’s final Markham game won’t mean much in the grand scheme of things but Annie will have the recap to wrap up the season.