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CWHL Recap: Thunder clinch, Furies inch closer to playoffs

Laura Stacey scores the game-winner to send the Thunder to the postseason.

Laura Stacey congratulates Victoria Bach (12) after a goal Teri Di Lauro / CWHL

Markham Thunder 3 v Les Canadiennes de Montréal 2

This afternoon’s game against les Canadiennes was, if not a must-win for Markham’s playoff hopes, a really-really-would-prefer-to-win, and they came through. The starting lineup was the same as yesterday, with their top line of Laura Stacey, Victoria Bach, and Jamie Lee Rattray out along with Laura Fortino and Ella Matteucci. Erica Howe got the back-to-back start, an unusual move for the Thunder.

Les Canadiennes started with Karell Émard, Katia Clément-Heydra, and Kim Deschênes at forward, with Sophie Brault and Lauriane Rougeau on defense and Geneviève Lacasse in net.

First Period

As with yesterday’s game, the first period was scoreless. The only power play in the period for either team belonged to Montréal, after Kristen Barbara was whistled for roughing about 13 minutes in. (There have been a decent amount of chippy penalties this weekend—I don’t think these teams like each other very much!) Lauriane Rougeau was called for interference at the very end of the period, with Markham’s power play beginning at the start of the second.

Shots for the period were 12 to 7 for Montréal.

Second Period

While the Thunder didn’t manage to score on the Rougeau penalty, less than a minute after Rougeau left the box Jess Jones made it 1-0 for the Thunder, the sole assist going to Jenna McParland. Jamie Lee Rattray made it 2-0 sixteen minutes in off a Laura Stacey assist, and the Thunder headed into second intermission with a two-goal lead.

The Thunder edged out the Canadiennes on the shot clock to the tune of 8 to 7.

Third Period

Laura Stacey gave Markham a 3-0 lead nine minutes in, and that is when Montréal decided it was time to make things interesting. Jill Saulnier scored less than thirty seconds later, and seventeen seconds after that, Ann-Sophie Bettez brought les Canadiennes within one. (Edit: although Saulnier was announced as the first Montréal goal scorer in the rink and on the game sheet apparently it was Hilary Knight who scored.) It’s a real tragedy this game wasn’t streamed, because I have questions about what exactly happened in the ninth minute of the third period, other than three goals. Despite pulling Lacasse, the Thunder and Howe were able to hold Montréal off, and the final score remained 3-2.

Highlights courtesy of RDS.

Three Stars

3. Laura Stacey, Markham Thunder (1 goal, 1 assist)

2. Karell Émard, les Canadiennes de Montréal (1 assist)

1. Jamie Lee Rattray, Markham Thunder (1 goal)

Notes:

  • This win gives Markham (at least) 30 points this season, which clinches them a playoff spot and the third seed, setting up a rematch with les Canadiennes.
  • This also happened, which I’m sure will not make that playoff series vs. Montréal any more chippy:

Toronto Furies 4 vs Worcester Blades 1

Prior to today’s game the Furies celebrated their families. Members of each player’s family (including most of the scratches) were invited onto the ice where they were publicly thanked and presented with what was described as a team photo but looked to be an action shot of each player. There was some extra cute happening when Carlee Campbell’s husband walked their daughter onto the ice, and Amanda Makela chose to bring out her dog Charlie, who was very pleased with his applause.

After a team photo with all the players and their families, it was time to get down to business. The Furies left no doubt they came to win this one, rolling out the top line of Natalie Spooner, Sarah Nurse and Shannon Stewart to start, with Renata Fast and Megan Quinn on the back end and Shea Tiley in net.

The Blades went with a new starting line as well, putting out Chelsey Goldberg with Turners Meghan and Morgan, but they kept Jessica Convery in goal and Alexis Miller and Lauren Williams paired on the blue line.

As with yesterday, the scratches for Toronto were Jessica Platt, Jenna Dingeldein, Emma Greco and Jordan Hampton.

First period

Toronto started things off with a heartbreaker of a missed chance. Shiann Darkangelo came in on the right side and sent the puck towards Carolyne Prévost, who had a gaping empty net to shoot at from the left. Unfortunately Prévost just missed the puck and had to chase it down.

Just over two minutes into the game Mackenzie MacNeil showed everyone how it’s done. She scooped a backhand up over Convery easy as you please to make it 1-0 Furies. Julie Allen got the assist.

90 seconds later, Brittany Howard showed off some nice edge work and stickhandling skills in the corner to evade a few Blades defenders and feed Carlee Campbell a cross-crease pass. Campbell did not miss and it was 2-0 Furies 3:41 into the game.

Play in this period was a little more back and forth than yesterday, and definitely faster, but Tiley wasn’t seeing much action.

Mellissa Channell stopped a chance with some nice defensive stick work but followed it up with a not-so-nice crosscheck and headed to the box. That made two minors in two consecutive games for Channell, who only has a total of 16 penalty minutes in the season. Hopefully not a trend that continues into Tuesday.

With Channell out, she was replaced on the penalty kill by Sena Suzuki, who joined Spooner, Nurse and Quinn on the first shift. Furies fans will know that when the Toronto penalty kill is good it is very, very good. This time Spooner stole a puck in the neutral zone and powered on in to put a shot on Convery before putting her own rebound into the net.

Toronto continued to press through the second half of the period, with Nurse, Fast and Prévost having some of the more notable chances. They ended the period up on the shot count 11 to 5.

Second period

Early in the second Convery made a nice save on Nurse and kept the puck covered with Stewart in front ready to pounce on a rebound.

Jess Vella dropped a nice pass back to Howard who fired only to be denied by Convery.

Channell did some more lovely work on defence.

Darkangelo had a chance and Convery had to juggle the puck, but it stayed out.

Both teams seemed to have stepped up the urgency in the second period. Certainly the Blades were fighting to win at least one game this season but it was nice to see Toronto step it up with a 3-0 lead instead of sitting back on their heels.

Convery made a great save on Spooner at 8:38 only to have Brittany Howard score off the faceoff four seconds later. Carolyne Prévost got the assist and it was 4-0.

Erin Kickham was called for roughing shortly thereafter and Campbell, Channell, Prévost, Spooner and Nurse went out on the power play. The Furies thought they’d scored a few seconds into the power play but instead Spooner was sent off for interference and we got some 4 on 4 action.

Not only did no one score during the 4 on 4, Worcester completely failed to use their few seconds of power play action: Kickham raced for the bench when her penalty expired, another of the Blades on the ice also went off.... and only one player came over the boards. What should have been a skater advantage for a few seconds turned into a few seconds of 5 on 4 for the Furies after the Spooner penalty ended while the crowd (yours truly included) yelled at the Worcester bench. I’m not sure what would have happened if Toronto had scored during the sequence but I’m pretty sure you can’t challenge for “blatant coaching stupidity”.

With five minutes left in the period Emily Fulton collided with Megan Myers at the Furies blue line and hit the ice. Fulton got back up quickly and Myers was sent off for bodychecking. For some reason, Spooner spent a long time in discussion with the officials before the power play actually started.

Spooner set up Channell for a shot, Campbell hit the post extremely loudly and Fast also had a shot on net but the Blades managed to kill off the penalty.

At 17:10 Tiley made a pretty impressive save on an unexpected Worcester 3 on 1 chance. Unfortunately, the Furies failed to get the puck out of the zone and less than 30 seconds later, Kaitlin Spurling scored to cut the lead to three. Assists went to Courtney Turner and Meghan Grieves.

With 11.8 seconds left, Jennifer MacAskill was sent off for hooking. It was a delayed penalty call but the Blades got possession before Tiley made it to the bench.

Shots on the period were 17 to 9 in favour of Toronto.

Third period

Lauren Dahm replaced Convery in net for Worcester to start the third.

Carlee Campbell started things off with some nice puck control at the blue line to keep things going in the offensive zone. She followed that up with a shot that went high. Channell and Nurse both had attempts and then Demi Crossman had a shorthanded chance for the Blades.

Despite being up by three the Furies continued to press. This was a stark contrast to yesterday’s game—it was obvious they weren’t going to let Worcester have any chance to play the spoilers.

It’s also possible they were playing a little too hard. Sydney Kidd went off for a high stick with 12:20 left to play, followed 17 seconds later by Jess Vella, who was called for slashing. Sarah Nurse, Megan Quinn and Mellissa Channell were sent out for the first wave of the very long 5 on 3. They managed to clear the zone about a minute in and were replaced by Renata Fast, Carlee Campbell and Natalie Spooner. Spooner, bless her heart, tried to go in 1 on 4 and nearly scored. She did draw a tripping penalty that evened things up a little as Crossman was sent to the box.

On the Furies power play Nurse tried a spin-and-shoot move that would have been fantastic if it had gone in, and still looked pretty good despite the lack of a goal.

Play was still fast and urgent in the last five minutes of the game. Both Tiley and Dahm had to make saves, with Dahm having to deny Howard a few times.

With 1:23 to go it looked like Shannon Moulson-Nap was considering an extended game of keep-away to end the game but she thought better of it and sent Spooner off for another try at the net.

Sarah Nurse was hauled down on her literal last-second shot attempt, so Alexis Miller was assigned a tripping penalty but didn’t actually spend any time in the box.

Shots on the period were 11 to 7 in favour of the Furies and 39 to 21 for the game.

Three stars

3. Kaitlin Spurling, Worcester Blades (1 goal)

2. Brittany Howard, Toronto Furies (1 goal, 1 assist)

1. Carlee Campbell, Toronto Furies (game winning goal)

Notes

  • I noticed Nurse and Suzuki working together well in this game, one feeding the other to set up something. Don’t know if that’s new or just something I haven’t noticed before.
  • This was another great game for Channell defensively. She’s really not afraid to do whatever it takes to keep her goalie from having to deal with a shot.
  • I’ve said this before but I really do not understand the way Lauren Dahm has been treated this season. She went from the starter who managed to keep things close and even get a win once last season to starting seven games and not playing enough minutes to count as a qualified goalie for stats purposes—the minimum was 540 minutes, she played 419. She played 60 minutes just twice. The Blades carrying and playing four goalies was absurd. Worcester needs to do better recruiting next season, certainly, but they might want to take a long hard look at their coach before extending his contract for next season.

Next up: it’s all down to the wire. The Furies take on the Thunder one last time and need a win to clinch a playoff spot. Toronto holds a three and one record against their crosstown rivals. Puck drop is 7:45pm EST on Tuesday at Mastercard Centre, tickets are available online and at the door, and we expect the game will be streamed.