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CWHL Playoffs: Double upset as Calgary Inferno shut out Kunlun Red Star 3-0 and Markham Thunder beat les Canadiennes de Montréal 2-1 (OT)

Dakota Woodworth and Jamie Lee Rattray with the game winners.

Markham Thunder celebrate during a game against the Canadiennes de Montréal. Celine Gelinas / CWHL

Kunlun Red Star vs Calgary Inferno 0-3

The Inferno came into this semi-final game looking to make their third consecutive appearance in the Clarkson Cup final. Kunlun wanted to impress the league as much in the postseason as they had in the regular season. One team made a good start on their goal.

As most people had predicted, the goalie battle was Delayne Brian vs Noora Räty. Brian may not have national team credentials backing her up, but she more than earned her MVP trophy in the 2016 Clarkson Cup.

Silver medalists Blayre Turnbull and Brianne Jenner accompanied Rhianna Kurio on the starting forward line for Calgary, with Taryn Baumgardt and Jacqui Pierri on defense.

As the away team the Inferno had a number of scratches. Brittany Esposito, their top scorer in the regular season, was the biggest loss. Laura Dostaler, rookie Kennedy Brown, and third goalie Toni Ross were the other players left off the roster tonight.

First period

Red Star got into penalty trouble early, both courtesy of Zoe Hickel (slashing and hooking). The second penalty was their undoing as Dakota Woodworth scored on the power play, with an assist by Louise Warren to put the Inferno up 1-0. This was the very first CWHL playoff game in Woodworth’s career - she was drafted by the Boston Blades in 2016.

Red Star got their own power play opportunity about three minutes later. Not only did Iya Gavrilova go off for hooking but Sophie Shirley followed her into the box less than a minute later on another hooking call, giving Kunlun an extended 5 on 3 opportunity.

Not only did Kunlun fail to capitalize, Melanie Jue was called for a body check a few seconds before the Shirley penalty expired, giving Calgary back the advantage in short order.

Calgary outshot Kunlun 10-9 in the first.

Second period

No scoring, but another two penalties for Red Star. Kelli Stack, the CWHL’s top scorer in the regular season, was called for a five minute major plus an additional two minutes for body checking from behind. No indication of who was hit, but I hope she was okay! Zoe Hickel served the extra two.

The exact second that Hickel got out of the box (per the score sheet) Shiann Darkangelo went off for interference. That Calgary couldn’t score with four straight minutes of 5 on 3 hockey says a lot for Noora Räty’s skills as a goalkeeper. No surprise, the Inferno outshot Kunlun 17-6 in the period.

Third period

Louise Warren and Dakota Woodworth combined for the second time to put Calgary up 2-0 just past the halfway mark in the period. This time Warren was the goal scorer (her first playoff goal, despite this being her fourth year in the playoffs) and Elana Lovell got her first playoff point with the secondary assist.

Less than a minute later, Noora Räty was called for roughing, meaning that Zoe Hickel spent yet another two minutes in the box. Apparently Digit Murphy doesn’t think Hickel’s much of a penalty killer?

Continuing the theme of firsts, Brittney Fouracres scored her first CWHL playoff goal unassisted with less than two minutes left to cap things off 3-0. The score sheet insists that Kunlun never pulled their goalie and I have no choice but to believe them. (update: I’ve been informed that the score sheet is correct, Fouracres scored on Räty, not an empty net)

Yet again the Inferno drastically outshot their opponents 11-5. Kunlun has been criticized for being weak on defense and it seems like that might have been the case again tonight.

Three stars

3. Noora Räty, Kunlun Red Star (35 saves)

2. Dakota Woodworth, Calgary Inferno (1 goal, 1 assist)

1. Delayne Brian, Calgary Inferno (20 save shutout)

Les Canadiennes de Montréal vs Markham Thunder 1-2 (OT)

The defending Clarkson Cup champions faced off against the team that finished the regular season as the hottest in the league.

Markham was missing four skaters: Fielding Montgomery, Jessica Hartwick, Megan Delay, and Melissa Wronzberg. Laurence Beaulieu and Noémie Marin were out for Montréal and Karell Emard was suspended due to her hit on Elana Lovell in the final game of the regular season. (Thanks to both Jared Book for that last bit of information.)

Markham chose to go with Erica Howe as their starter. Jenna McParland teamed up with Nicoles Brown and Kosta at forward for the Thunder, with Laura Fortino and Jocelyne Larocque on defense. As usual, Emerance Maschmeyer took the net for Montréal. Lauriane Rougeau and Cathy Chartrand started on the blueline with Kim Deschênes, Katia Clement-Heydra and Kayla Tutino up front.

First period

A lot of shots, no scoring in the first.

The two teams traded interference penalties, with Rougeau going off at 8:03 and then Dania Simmonds in the box for the Thunder at 11:47. Devon Skeats ended the period with a tripping call at 19:55.

Shots were 13-7 in favour of the Canadiennes.

Second period

The Thunder killed off the Skeats penalty and then sent her back to the box a few minutes later when Erica Howe was called for delay of game. (Theme of the night: goalies misbehaving!)

Nicole Kosta finally broke the ice at 11:58 of the second period, yet another first CWHL playoff goal. Laura McIntosh got the assist as Markham pulled ahead 1-0.

Shots were even in the period, 9-9.

Third period

Considering some of the heavy hitters on Montréal I would not have called Emanuelle Blais as the tying goal scorer. Real life is stranger than fiction and Blais, who was 13th in team scoring during the regular season, did just that, with an assist from Marion Allemoz (first playoff point) just over three minutes into the third.

Kosta went off for tripping at 15:02 but Markham killed it off.

At 13-13, shots were even in the period, and so was the score so off to overtime they went.

Overtime

An elbowing call on Kristen Richards could have been disastrous for the Thunder. Instead, Jamie Lee Rattray saved her team with the shorthanded winner, ending overtime at 5:05.

Three stars

3. Emerance Maschmeyer, Canadiennes de Montréal (27 saves)

2. Erica Howe, Markham Thunder (35 saves)

1. Jamie Lee Rattray (Game winning goal)

The next games in the series are on Saturday — Calgary goes for the sweep at 4:30 pm and Markham follows suit at 7:30 pm. Both games will be streamed on the CWHL website.