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CWHL Recap: Toronto Furies work hard, lose to les Canadiennes 4-1

A shorthanded goal from Natalie Spooner can’t save her team from troublesome nets, a fluke goal and Montréal firepower.

L Bolliger / CWHL

This is the fifth and final regular season matchup between the Furies and the Canadiennes this season. So far, the record is 4-0 in favour of Montréal, but most games have been pretty close.

Elaine Chuli gets her third consecutive start in net, with Renata Fast and Mellissa Channell on defence. Brittany Howard centres Jess Vella and Carolyne Prévost on the starting line.

Emma Greco is already back in the lineup after having to be flown back to Canada early from the Shenzhen road trip due to a collarbone injury. (UPDATE: Per GM Sami Jo Small, this was an error on the game sheet, Greco underwent surgery this week and is out for the season.) Emma Pearson, a 2018 draft pick from the University of Western Ontario, makes her professional debut on defence. Shannon Moulson-Nap is not in the lineup and for some reason Carlee Campbell is wearing her number. Jessica Platt, Jenna Dingeldein and Jordan Hampton are the other scratches.

Emerance Maschmeyer takes the net for Montréal. Unlike the Inferno, who never played starter Alex Rigsby against the Furies and paid for it, the Canadiennes do consider Toronto enough of a threat to bring out the big guns. It’s no surprise then, that coach Danièle Sauvageau puts out her top line of Jill Saulnier, Ann-Sophie Bettez and Marie-Philip Poulin to start, with Lauriane Rougeau and Taylor Willard on the back end.

Head coach Caroline Ouellette is not on the bench for Montréal as she’s got a commitment to the pee-wee team she coaches.

First period

The game starts slowly, with both teams feeling each other out. Natalie Spooner gets the game’s first shot on goal.

Maschmeyer seems to be contributing to the slow pace, favouring covering up the puck rather than handing it off to one of her defenders.

Three and a half minutes into the game, Jill Saulnier passes to Ann-Sophie Bettez from behind the net and Bettez beats Chuli to make it 1-0 for Montréal. It was a bang-bang play that Chuli had very little chance on. Marie-Philip Poulin gets the secondary assist.

About halfway through the period, Sarah Nurse sends a shot off the post and Maschmeyer smothers it to keep Spooner from pouncing on the rebound.

Elaine Chuli has to bail out Renata Fast when she makes a mistake right in front of the Toronto net with Katia Clément-Heydra breathing down her neck.

Despite the first goal, Toronto is generally doing well against Montreal’s first line, taking chances away and keeping the puck out of danger.

Spooner is getting most of Toronto’s shots on net. Nurse is awfully quiet in contrast — have the Canadiennes decided she’s the bigger threat?

Chuli and Poulin have an encounter behind the Toronto net, but Chuli gets the puck away before there’s trouble.

Toronto gets some late pressure with several shot attempts. Maschmeyer finally covers up to stop play.

At 17:26, Nurse is called for a trip on Melanie Desrochers. Chuli makes a couple of saves, the Toronto net comes off its pegs (this is approximately the third time one of the nets has come off this period), Spooner and Vella get a short-handed chance, and the penalty is killed off.

Chuli does a great job to keep out a last second chance from the Canadiennes first line and keep the score 1-0.

Shots for the period were 10 - 7 in favour of Toronto, reflecting what was a very strong period for the Furies.

Second period

Another slow start but Toronto gets their first power play in the first 30 seconds of the period as Erin Ambrose goes off for a hook. Kessel sends out Howard, Shiann Darkangelo, Nurse, Fast and Spooner as the first power play unit. Spooner takes up residence in front of Maschmeyer to screen and look for the tip.

Fast and Channell (on the second unit) both get shots on net and Clément-Heydra gets a shorthanded chance that’s foiled by Channell, but nobody scores for either team.

Play goes back and forth, but although Montreal is getting zone time it doesn’t seem like much is getting all the way to Chuli.

Emma Pearson gets a chance around the net, which is cool for her in her first game.

Chuli makes a save on Poulin and the Furies are called for too many players. Pearson sits for the bench minor. Fast, Nurse, Spooner and Campbell go to work on the penalty kill.

Hilary Knight is shooting a lot today but she’s again denied by Chuli. Nurse and Spooner try a shorthanded chance. They’re relieved by Darkangelo, Howard, Channell and Megan Quinn as play continues in the Montréal zone during a truly excellent kill for Toronto.

Back at five on five, Poulin hits the post and all of Toronto is thankful for that post.

Chuli keeps doing work at one end while Spooner and Nurse keep doing work at the other end and oh yes, the nets keep coming off their moorings.

Late in the period Toronto gets some extended time in the Montréal zone, but they don’t manage to get a lot of chances on net.

Beauty glove save by Chuli on a snapshot by Knight in close.

Exciting minute or two as Montréal puts on some pressure and shows off their speed.

Howard shoots just wide and then gets another kick save by Maschmeyer on her second try.

Finally Poulin goes top cheese far corner on Chuli in the last minute of the period. On the broadcast (and in the rink, mediajunkie reports) the net looked like it was off its moorings before the shot went in—it certainly was off after the fact. Poulin and Spooner chat with the refs and there’s a long chat with Coach Kessel but Montréal gets the goal to go up 2-0.

There’s a sense of urgency to Toronto’s play in the final seconds of the period, but the clock runs out before they can do any damage.

Shots on the period were 13-6 for Canadiennes. Another good period but that not so great call by the refs on the goal is frustrating.

Third period

The Canadiennes get the first good chance of the period as Saulnier and Poulin combine, but it’s handled nicely by Chuli.

Another Spooner chance is denied by Maschmeyer.

While I wouldn’t call them dominant per se, the Canadiennes are shutting the Furies down much better this period.

Spooner draws a penalty just before the five minute mark, a tripping call on Lauriane Rougeau. Bettez takes the puck in shorthanded and Chuli has to save a Poulin shot. The Furies have trouble getting back into the Montréal zone, and the only really good chance by the Furies is one by Fast that Maschmeyer stops.

Back at five on five the Canadiennes continue to gum things up a bit— the Furies are gaining the zone but can’t pass cleanly.

Chuli makes a couple more saves including another by Knight before gloving the puck.

Spooner gets a couple of shots on net but Maschmeyer keeps it out.

Nurse is taken down by Ambrose which gets the Canadiennes another penalty for interference. A half-hearted shorthanded shot by Kim Deschênes from the Toronto blueline takes a bad hop out of Chuli’s glove and over into the net to make it 3-0. Absolute fluke of a goal, I feel terrible for Chuli. Sarah Lefort gets the assist.

Julie Allen dumps a Canadienne on her ass and goes to the box for body checking.

It’s too bad that Toronto’s power play hasn’t been as good as their penalty kill in this game. Spooner’s shorthanded wraparound attempt doesn’t work she tries again and beats Maschmeyer. 3-1 now, with the assist going to Nurse.

The Furies perfect penalty kill record is shattered seconds later. There’s a shot by Deschênes that Chuli doesn’t fully see and Karell Émard is there to tap in the rebound 4-1. That’s two goals that Chuli will want back. Rougeau is credited with the secondary assist.

There’s a scramble in front of the Montréal net and the net comes off again. The nets came off at least half a dozen times in the game if not more and it was really frustrating.

The Canadiennes continued to press in the final minutes of the game so Chuli was too busy making saves to be pulled for an extra attacker.

Final shot count was 32-26 in favour of the Canadiennes.

Notes

  • Hilary Knight had a ton of shots in this game, looking much more active than she has in any other game against Toronto this season.
  • Similarly this was a very active game for Natalie Spooner, who had most of the chances for Toronto.
  • Mellissa Channell looked very good at both ends of the rink.
  • Elaine Chuli probably wanted the last two goals back but she otherwise looked really good against a top squad. Her defenders were also helpful in keeping a lot of the shot attempts by the Canadiennes first line from reaching the net.
  • This was not a must-win game but it would have been really nice to finally beat Montréal and get those two points. However this means that Toronto must run the table for the rest of the season and that either Shenzhen or Markham must lose all of their remaining games. Next weekend will be a big one for Toronto.

Three stars

3. Natalie Spooner, Toronto Furies (1 goal)

2. Lauriane Rougeau, les Canadiennes de Montréal (1 assist, 1 penalty)

1. Ann-Sophie Bettez, les Canadiennes de Montréal (1 goal)

The Toronto Furies and Markham Thunder do battle next weekend in a home-and-home series. Things kick off at 3:45 pm on Saturday Februrary 16 at Mastercard Centre (streaming), followed by a 12:30 pm game on Sunday February 17 at Thornhill Community Centre (streaming). Tickets are available online and at the door.