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CWHL recap: Chuli grounds Thunder 3-1

The Markham Thunder threatened, but they couldn’t get enough pucks past Elaine Chuli.

Elaine Chuli (29) of the Toronto Furies stays low in her net with Sena SuzukI (6) defending. Teri Di-Lauro / CWHL

The Toronto Furies are determined to both make the playoffs and keep things very exciting on their way there.

Today was the Markham Thunder’s final home game and their annual Do it for Daron game, which raises awareness of youth mental health issues. The Thunder wore purple jerseys that were auctioned off during the game.

With a mess of players still out for the Rivalry Series (Canada won today’s game 2-0 and the series, 2-1), the Furies and Thunder looked to secondary scoring and a few call-ups from the expanded roster. Emily Fulton sat this one out after her fall in yesterday’s game so the Furies were down to 16 skaters, with no other changes from yesterday. Jenna McParland was back in the lineup for the Thunder, while Laura McIntosh and Ellie Seedhouse were today’s call-ups.

Elaine Chuli got the call in net for Toronto, with the rest of the starting lineup unchanged: Carolyne Prévost, Mackenzie MacNeil and Shannon Stewart up front, and Megan Quinn paired with Mellissa Channell on defence. Liz Knox took her turn in goal for Markham, Taylor Woods and Kristen Barbara returned to start on the blue line and Kristen Richards joined McIntosh and McParland at forward.

First period

The first period began with a battle of the special teams. Richards was called for boarding at the 3:40 mark, followed by a slashing call on Woods just over a minute later.

The Furies capitalized on the two skater advantage with a point shot from Carlee Campbell that beat Knox and put them up 1-0. Campbell’s got a hell of a shot that the Furies used a lot on the power play in her rookie season. This time it earned Campbell her first point since coming back from maternity leave. Channell was credited with the assist.

Sydney Kidd went off for tripping a minute later. The Furies survived the penalty kill unscathed.

Things calmed down a bit on the discipline front for a while. Play went end to end with Knox seeming to be busier than Chuli for a while.

Jess Jones went to the box for a cross-check late in the period but the Furies couldn’t convert.

The Thunder had a slight advantage on actual shots on net for the period 8 to 7.

Second period

Markham started the period putting pressure on Chuli, who held up like a champ. Julia Fedeski, however, ended up in the box with a holding call less than two and a half minutes in.

There were a few heart-stopping moments on the Thunder power play, and Chuli had to make some amazing saves. She looked to be completely out of position on one Markham shot and just about flew across the net to make the save. Shiann Darkangelo had a shorthanded chance (one of many this game) but the penalty expired with no change to the score.

The Furies pushed back more towards the middle of the period, starting to gain the Thunder zone but not really able to get shots on net.

Emma Pearson had her first particularly notable play in the CWHL, laying out in front of Jones to deny her a chance. It was only Pearson’s third pro game and generally I was counting the fact that I hadn’t noticed her as a positive trait in a new defender, but plays like that one are also welcome.

At 13:23 MacNeil sent a pass to Prévost, who found Stewart to put the Furies up 2-0 and there was much rejoicing.

Ella Matteucci went off for slashing a few seconds later, but Toronto’s power play had trouble keeping the zone, much less doing any scoring.

The Thunder continued to press and Chuli continued to deny all comers until Richards fed a cross-ice pass to McParland, who went down on one knee to send a beauty of a shot top corner before Chuli could get all the way across. 2-1 and the stress level just kept rising.

While Markham got a lot more chances, Toronto hit the net more, leading the shots 11 to 10.

Third period

The Thunder got right back at it in the third, putting pressure on the Furies and drawing another early penalty call. Shannon Moulson-Nap sat for hooking less than two minutes into the period.

Fortunately, the Furies penalty kill continued to be good, keeping Markham out of the zone and nabbing a few shorthanded looks. As has been a theme all weekend, Darkangelo was very active, causing problems for the Thunder.

Back at even strength MacNeil had herself yet another opportunity on net. Julie Allen got a shot in, Channell had a look. The Thunder kept pushing back but the Furies weren’t making it easy for them.

The final power play of the game went to Toronto as Nicole Brown was called for body-checking. They had a few chances, particularly those generated by Channell, but Markham also got some offensive zone time.

As the period hit the halfway point, the Furies weren’t getting as many shots, but they were at least keeping things in the right zone.

McParland had an opportunity to tie it up but just missed.

The Thunder had a very worrying four on two, but Chuli bailed her players out.

With just under seven minutes left there was an intense scramble in the crease. Chuli was down, the puck got loose, but Markham couldn’t get to it in time.

Megan Quinn stole the puck with a nifty little move and headed into the Thunder zone but couldn’t bury her shot.

With 2:55 left Toronto iced the puck because everyone involved needed that stress.

Chuli gloved a high shot from Matteucci.

The puck landed in the penalty box with 96 seconds to go. Markham called their timeout and pulled Knox.

MacNeil got the puck out and tried for the empty net but her shot was blocked.

Prévost got an opportunity, her initial shot was blocked, but the puck came back to her and she buried it with just under a minute left, to bury the Thunder 3-1.

All told, the Furies and Thunder tied at 29 shots apiece, although the Thunder would probably be ahead on shot attempts if the CWHL tracked such things.

Three stars

3. Mellissa Channell, Toronto Furies (1 assist)

2. Liz Knox, Markham Thunder (26 saves)

1. Elaine Chuli, Toronto Furies (28 saves)

Notes

Elaine Chuli is a hero and I will not hear anything different. I was very glad that the Furies picked her up in the offseason and she’s proving her worth down the stretch.

As in yesterday’s game, Channell, MacNeil and Darkangelo were standouts, with nods to Campbell, Quinn and Prévost as well.

With her goal yesterday, Carolyne Prévost hit the 50 goal mark!

The Furies playoff hopes are still alive, but fans are going to want to keep an eye on the Inferno’s visit to China this week. If Calgary wins all three games in regulation, the Furies will have control of their own destiny - three more wins will guarantee a playoff spot. If the Rays get even one more point, playoff hopes will rest on the Thunder losing out. (s/t to Kirsten Whelan for walking me through this)

The Furies continue their playoff push next weekend, hosting the Worcester Blades at Mastercard Centre, with an early start of 6:00 pm on Saturday. The Thunder head to Montréal for two more games against the Canadiennes. Then, the final game of the CWHL regular season will take place at Mastercard Centre on Tuesday night. Tickets are available online or at the door. All remaining Furies games will be streamed and the Saturday Thunder game will be streamed by the league.