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CWHL Playoffs: Kunlun Red Star tie series in overtime 3-2, Markham Thunder are going to the Final!

Jenna McParland’s hat trick punched the Thunder’s ticket to the Clarkson Cup Final.

Jenna McParland of the Markham Thunder posed in front of the Montreal goal with goalie Emerance Maschmeyer in the background.
Jenna McParland was the hero of the night for the Thunder
Jessica Bazal / CWHL

Calgary Inferno vs Kunlun Red Star 2-3 (OT)

No major changes to the lineup for either team in this must-win game for Kunlun.

First period

It was clear from the beginning that these are two evenly-matched teams. Fast, skilled, and structured, it took a while for either team to get any real footing in their opponent’s zone. The first half of the period was spent with a lot of neutral zone play and not many deep zone entries or much sustained pressure.

The Inferno in particular struck me as a tight unit who were very good at backing each other up.

At 11:16 the tide began to turn in Red Star’s favour. Hayleigh Cudmore was called for cross-checking following a Stephanie Anderson shot. Less than a minute later, with all of the play coming in the Inferno zone, Iya Gavrilova was sent off for body checking Anderson against the boards.

Delayne Brian held up well against the sustained onslaught of 5 on 3 action, but Calgary could not clear the puck. Cudmore returned to the ice and Red Star kept pressing. It was Taylor Marchin who sent a shot from the point through some traffic to beat Brian and score Kunlun’s first playoff goal. 1-0 KRS, assists to Jessica Wong and Stephanie Anderson.

It took the Inferno a while to get into the Kunlun zone following the goal, but they began to take control of the final quarter of the period.

Zhixin Liu was called for hooking with just under two minutes to go in the period. The power play was not the most organized for Calgary, who took some time setting up. They then not only allowed Kunlun to clear the zone but had a couple of Red Star skaters putting some pressure on in the Inferno zone. Calgary got the puck back in the right zone for a last-second flurry but Noora Räty held fast to keep the door shut.

Second period

There were a number of examples of excellent backchecking and close player on player pressure in the first period. This started to devolve in the second, with much more space between players and more of a tendency towards scramble plays.

Discipline also became an issue, as Kunlun took another three penalties. Melanie Jue and Shiann Darkangelo were both called for hooking, Darkangelo just shortly after the Jue penalty expired. Kelli Stack went off for boarding, a call that she disputed. The Red Star survived all three penalty kills - the Inferno consistently had trouble setting up and keeping the puck in the offensive zone.

Katelyn Gosling had a tantalisingly close chance that slid along the goal mouth but didn’t cross the line.

Calgary finally tied the game with just over a minute left in the period. Brianne Jenner carried the puck into the Kunlun zone and sent a pretty drop pass to Blayre Turnbull who sent a shot up and over Räty. Noora got a piece of it, but not enough. 1-1

Third period

Third period started badly for the Inferno. Louise Warren was called for hooking Zoe Hickel just seconds after the faceoff.

Kunlun didn’t look very ready for a power play — they lost control of the puck a few times and Iya Gavrilova was there to make an attempt each time. Then Alex Carpenter drew a tripping call on Sophie Shirley, leading to the second extended 5 on 3 session for Red Star.

Once they were settled in, Kunlun brought more planning and fewer shots to this power play than they had in the first. Delayne Brian certainly had work to do but it wasn’t as constant. The penalty expired without any scoring and Kunlun kept up the pressure.

At 7:53, Jessica Wong fed a long outlet pass to Shiann Darkangelo. Darkangelo got in ahead of the Inferno defender and put a lovely shot in over Brian’s glove to put Kunlun up 2-1.

Noora Räty had to deal with Inferno players in her kitchen after shot attempts a couple of times. The first instance was determined to be caused by one of her own players. The second time got Louise Warren two minutes for goaltender interference with less than five minutes to go.

Rachel Llanes negated the Kunlun advantage less than 30 seconds in by tripping up Iya Gavrilova. Red Star dominated the 4 on 4 play, but the moment Calgary was back at full strength the tide turned.

Gavrilova beat Räty with a nasty shot just three seconds into the Inferno power play to tie the game 2-2. Brianne Jenner got her second point of the game with the assist.

With only 1:03 left in the third there were only a few more attempts of note before the clock ran out.

Overtime

Zoe Hickel was called for tripping just 13 seconds in. Calgary had a few opportunities on the power play, including another “how did that miss?” moment for Gosling who hit the post at close range with half the net open in front of her.

It took only nine seconds at even strength for Red Star to win the game. Kelli Stack came into the Inferno zone two on one and was turned away. On her second attempt she managed to fool Delayne Brian and set up an opportunity for Stephanie Anderson on the other side of the net. Anderson got everything on the shot and didn’t miss. Jessica Wong had the secondary assist, giving her points on ever Kunlun playoff goal so far.

Three stars

3. Noora Räty, Kunlun Red Star (34 saves)

2. Jessica Wong, Kunlun Red Star (3 assists)

1. Stephanie Anderson, Kunlun Red Star (game winning goal, 1 assist)

The final match-up in this series will be streamed live at 5:30 pm EDT / 3:30 pm MDT on Sunday.

Markham Thunder vs Les Canadiennes de Montréal 4-1

Over in Brossard, les Canadiennes de Montréal faced off against the Markham Thunder, trying to stave off elimination while the Thunder tried to pull off an upset sweep. Erica Howe started in goal for the Thunder, and Emerance Maschmeyer was at the other end for Montréal. Les Canadiennes also got Karell Émard back—she missed game one due to a suspension for elbowing Calgary’s Elana Lovell.

First Period

The two teams started off by trading chances—a shot from Ann-Sophie Bettez that went wide, and a strong chance from Jenna McParland that Maschmeyer had to save.

Jamie Lee Rattray put some fear into les Canadiennes quickly, coming in fast through the neutral zone and manoeuvring around Erin Ambrose. Her backhand shot bounced off Maschmeyer’s glove and ended up in the net, but the goal was called off.

Rattray got a shot off with multiple defenders draped all over her (this is a recording), forcing Maschmeyer to make another save. Markham had a strong offensive period and Maschmeyer did a lot of work, although she didn’t always look super steady. Montréal, on the other hand, looked a bit disorganized in their own zone at times.

Laura Fortino received a pretty pass out of the neutral zone from Rattray, putting it on net. Maschmeyer bobbled the save, and Fortino was obviously displeased with the quick whistle afterwards.

Our first penalty of the game came courtesy of Devon Skeats, who tripped a Canadienne in Markham’s own zone. Montréal quickly made them pay. A point shot from Chartrand was tipped, and while Howe made the first save, Sarah Lefort was able to tuck it behind her.

Only a few moments later, Markham tied it up. A sloppy play of the puck by Maschmeyer behind the net went straight to Nicole Brown, Maschmeyer ended up out of position, and Jenna McParland banged the puck past her.

McParland had several great looks during the period, including one that involved Erin Ambrose sprawling out on the ice to block the puck.

Hilary Knight got a good chance after a neutral zone giveaway by Markham. Unsurprisingly, she stood out at several points this period, and not just because of how tall she is (note: she is very tall). Early in the period, she set up Marion Allemoz for a good chance before Allemoz was tripped up in the slot.

Devon Skeats took her second straight penalty with about four and a half minutes left. This power play was much less efficient than the last for Montréal, with a lot of time spent chasing down the puck in their own zone. It could have been worse—Jamie Lee Rattray almost scored her second shorthanded goal this series, but she wasn’t quite able to get the puck over Maschmeyer. Markham killed it off.

With 14 seconds left, Taylor Woods was tripped up in the corner by Noémie Marin and Markham got their first power play. McParland fanned on a shot from the top of the crease but Montréal held the Thunder off through the end of the period.

Second Period

Markham had most of a power play left over to start the second period. They had trouble getting set up in the zone for any length of time, and the penalty elapsed without incident.

A quick shot snapped from Sarah Lefort almost gave Montréal the lead. It was followed later that minute by a nice turning attempt by Kim Deschênes, and then soon after that Howe made a nice save on Émard. When Montréal turns on the pressure, they’re terrifying—they can come at you in waves.

After Laura Stacey collected the puck and carried it through the neutral zone, Deschênes took a hooking call, giving Markham their second power play of the game. It started off with a great shorthanded chance for Bettez, who led the league in shorthanded goals this season with three. Again, Markham didn’t muster up much pressure on the power play.

With only two seconds remaining on the Deschênes minor, Jocelyne Larocque was called for tripping. Early in the Montréal power play, Rattray and Maschmeyer collided behind the net, and it was Maschmeyer who got the penalty—a minor for interference, which negated Montréal’s power play.

Stacey had the best chance 4 on 4, using her speed to easily navigate through the Montréal defense, but the puck rolled off her stick as she was attempting to tuck it through Maschmeyer’s pads.

Howe looked very solid, easily gloving a shot from Deschênes after misplays in the neutral zone let Deschênes shake her defenders. Meanwhile, Maschmeyer made the saves, but a lot of them looked scrambly. After one of those crease scrambles, Émard and Laura McIntosh were sent off for coincidental roughing minors, giving us another two minutes of 4 on 4 hockey. Knight almost gave Montréal the lead as she tried to tip the puck in waiting by the post, but Howe kept it out.

A turning shot from Caroline Ouellette came to nothing, Howe making the save and Katia Clement-Heydra unable to put in the rebound.

As the period wound down, Rattray had a picture-perfect opportunity, taking a feed from Lindsay Grigg and sliding her way right to the top of Maschmeyer’s crease. Her backhand missed, and the period ended without any scoring, still 1-1.

Third Period

Rattray started off the period by hitting the crossbar—it had Maschmeyer looking around, trying to figure out where the puck was.

Melanie Desrochers took a tripping call within the first two minutes, giving Markham their fourth power play of the game. Yet again, Bettez started off with a dangerous look on the penalty kill, because I suppose that’s obligatory.

A great chance for Markham was stopped by Maschmeyer, who dove on the puck before Larocque could stuff it in to what looked like a wide-open net. Earlier I commented on Maschmeyer looking “scrambly” but sometimes, that’s what works. She made a strong save on Rattray after Rattray bypassed Cathy Chartrand with ease, and even if Maschmeyer had to fight the puck off a bit, she still kept the score tied.

Deschênes almost tied it up, after she received a pass from Clement-Heydra, and Howe got a chance to display her skills. Only a few moments later, Deschênes went off for body-checking, giving Montréal’s power play yet another chance.

Nicole Kosta got a good chance right from Maschmeyer’s doorstep, but play was stopped because the net came off its moorings. That happened several times this game. Markham had more luck getting consistent pressure on this power play, and it paid off. A Rattray feed from behind the net found McParland, and she fired a beautiful shot from the bottom of the left faceoff circle and right past Maschmeyer. 2-1, Markham.

With just over ten minutes left and a one-goal deficit, Montréal started to play more frantically. They clearly understood that they were ten minutes away from the end of their season, but their attempt to muster up momentum was stymied by Jenna McParland completing her hat trick. Markham capitalized on a turnover in Montréal’s zone, and McParland’s shot trickled through Maschmeyer, making it 3-1 Markham. McParland’s had a hell of a game—she’s not the Thunder player I’d have called for a playoff hat trick, but this has been a very impressive performance.

Markham, with a two-goal lead, seemed to be happy to play a bit of dump and chase as the period wound down. Maschmeyer was pulled with under two minutes to go, and despite an offensive flurry by les Canadiennes, Markham’s defense and Erica Howe stood strong. Jamie Lee Rattray finally brought the puck out of the zone and steered it into the empty net, making it 4-1 and icing both the game and the series for Markham.

This makes the first appearance in the Clarkson Cup Final for the Thunder since 2012.

Three stars

3. Emerance Maschmeyer, Canadiennes de Montréal (19 saves)

2. Erica Howe, Markham Thunder (27 saves)

1. Jenna McParland, Markham Thunder (3 goals)

For tickets and other details about the Clarkson Cup Final being held at noon on Sunday March 25 at Ricoh Coliseum check out the CWHL website.