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CWHL Playoffs: All tied up!

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A McParland hat trick and Inferno puck luck force both semi-finals to a third game.

Jenna McParland of the Markham Thunder posed in front of the Montreal goal with goalie Emerance Maschmeyer in the background.
Jenna McParland (91) of the Markham Thunder helped her team to a win with a hat trick against les Canadiennes.
Jessica Bazal / CWHL

Markham Thunder 4 - Les Canadiennes de Montréal 3

The only changes in the Thunder starting lineup tonight were on the blue line as Kristen Barbara and Jocelyne Larocque drew in. Victoria Bach, Laura Stacey and Jamie Lee Rattray started at forward, with Erica Howe in net. Jess Jones and Laura Fortino joined last night’s scratches Nicole Kosta and Ailish Forfar.

The Canadiennes apparently decided not to change what was working. As with yesterday Emerance Maschmeyer was in net with Catherine Daoust and Lauriane Rougeau on defence and Jill Saulnier, Hilary Knight, and Karell Émard up front. Marie-Philip Poulin was still out, along with Erin Ambrose, who left the game after a hit by Jenna McParland last night.

First period

Less than a minute in, Saulnier sent the puck over the glass, earning a delay of game penalty and giving the Thunder a power play. The first unit out consisted of Jocelyne Larocque, Megan Bozek, Kristen Richards Jenna McParland and Victoria Bach.

The Canadiennes cleared the zone several times, getting the puck deep in the Markham zone. It was not looking like a great power play for the Thunder until Rattray sent a hard one-timer on net to be tipped in front. The goal went to McParland with assists to Bach and Rattray, 1-0 Thunder.

Markham continued to pressure following the goal but Montréal eventually got their bearings and started fighting back more. Scoring chances at one end were met by scoring chances at the other and Howe was definitely working hard.

Canadiennes forward Sarah Lefort was sent off for slashing six minutes into the period. Six seconds later, the Thunder scored. Larocque fed McParland who sent a beauty of an angle shot past Maschmeyer to make it 2-0. McParland scored a hat trick in game two of last season’s semi-finals and history might be poised to repeat itself.

A minute later Nicole Brown got caught slashing and the Thunder went to the kill. The Canadiennes cycled the puck and got a bunch of chances, including a moment where Émard thought she had scored but Erica Howe kept the puck out of the net.

Markham seemed to relax a little once things were back at even strength, allowing more scoring chances for Montréal. Jill Saulnier especially seemed to be trying hard to be the hero the Canadiennes needed but Howe was having none of it.

A scramble in front of Howe turned into a fight after the whistle that ended up with Katia Clément-Heydra down on the ice and Larocque in the penalty box for roughing. Montréal seemed to be looking for a major instead of a minor but they lost that argument.

Markham cleared the zone a few times but couldn’t get the puck deep. They compounded the problem with a call of too many players which sent Brooke Webster to the box and gave the Canadiennes a 5 on 3 for 33 seconds. Howe kept everything out, and was beat once back at 5 on 4 but saved by the crossbar.

With 41 seconds left in the period Richards was whistled for hooking, which meant that McParland beating Maschmeyer didn’t count.

Shots on the period were 16 to 5 in favour of the Canadiennes, but the shot total’s not the one that counts.

Second period

The Thunder started the period on the penalty kill with Richards still in the box. Saulnier continued to do her best to beat Howe but Erica Howe was having a night, and Richards got the puck as she exited the box.

Play continued to be very back and forth, with Montréal getting more sustained offensive zone time this period. Howe got more work and needed a little luck to deny Saulnier.

Kim Deschênes was sent to the box after the Canadiennes were caught with too many players. Larocque had a great shot from the point that Maschmeyer kept out so it was up to McParland to get the hat trick. She got Maschmeyer to bite down low then shot high from her knees. Another power play, another Thunder goal, 3-0.

Hilary Knight decided she wasn’t going to let that stand and answered back 12 seconds later. Saulnier finally got a point with an assist on the goal.

Saulnier kept giving the Thunder trouble, going one on one with Howe but still denied.

McParland had an opportunity to get her fourth goal of the night but this time Maschmeyer had her beat.

Howe lost her stick briefly while under pressure by Rougeau but escaped without any scoring.

Melanie Desrochers cross-checked a Markham player and got two minutes. It started off as a fairly good kill for Montréal, with the defenders tight to the Thunder and getting the puck out, but Ella Matteucci sent a beautiful point shot past Maschmeyer to make it 4-1. Webster and Larocque got the assists.

The fourth Thunder goal seemed to suck a lot of the energy out of the Canadiennes and while they got a few more chances on Howe there was definitely a sense they were waiting for the period to be over.

Shots on goal were more even but the Canadiennes still held the edge, 11-9.

Third period

Markham started the period looking aggressive but early on Montréal was getting the better chances.

Howe looked to be down and out with a puck loose in front but when Clément-Heydra tried, she found Howe was still able to make the save. The Thunder had to eventually ice the puck to try and alleviate the pressure on their goalie.

The Canadiennes continued putting everything on net but Howe wasn’t having it. Eventually the Thunder got the puck out and things got back to back and forth play, or what seemed like around and around play as the puck kept being passed behind the respective nets to ring around and up ice.

Again, Saulnier showed off a hell of a shot on net but Howe got a piece of it.

At the 8:50 mark Markham went back to the power play after Rougeau was called for body contact. It looked like the power play was going to go five for five as a shot through traffic beat Maschmeyer, but Maschmeyer complained to the officials and it was called back, with “player in the crease” as the reasoning. Since this wasn’t an IIHF game, I assume they meant goalie interference?

After the ensuing faceoff Montréal had a few shorthanded chances and eventually did, technically, kill off a penalty for the first time.

Deschênes made her second visit to the penalty box, this time on a hooking call. Markham were called for too many players a second time to put McParland in the box and make things 4 on 4. Saulnier followed her in after a body checking call to make it 4 on 3 for the Thunder. Nobody scored, although Knight had a shorthanded chance and Rougeau sacrificed her body for a nice block on a Thunder 2 on 1.

The Canadiennes pulled Maschmeyer with about two minutes to go. Hilary Knight took advantage of the extra numbers to send a beaut of a shot on goal, beating Howe clean and cutting the lead to 4-2.

Markham iced the puck, Maschmeyer came out again, Knight sent another puck on net and Émard was there for the rebound. 4-3 with 1:08 left and I started having Leafs flashbacks.

The Thunder called their timeout to settle things down.

Maschmeyer came back in as it was Montréal’s turn to ice the puck.

Saulnier led the charge back down the ice, Markham iced the puck and Montréal called their timeout.

Maschmeyer came out again.

Mélodie Daoust and Knight both got shots on net but Howe hung in for the win to force game three tomorrow.

Shots on goal were 16 to 6 in the period for the Canadiennes and 43 to 20 for the game.

Three stars

3. Hilary Knight, Canadiennes de Montréal (2 goals, 1 assist)

2. Jenna McParland, Markham Thunder (3 goals)

1. Erica Howe, Markham Thunder (40 saves)

Notes

  • It was definitely not their only issue but the Canadiennes missed Ambrose in this one. There was some talk about McParland maybe facing supplemental discipline for her hit on Friday and that she scored a hat trick in a game that Ambrose couldn’t play in must have stung.
  • It’s interesting that the Thunder’s top scorer, Victoria Bach, only has one assist so far these playoffs. Markham are going to need her on Sunday afternoon.
  • Excellent performance from Howe but can she keep it up or will Saulnier find the back of the net tomorrow?

Toronto Furies 0 - Calgary Inferno 3

No changes in either starting lineup for this game. Shea Tiley got her second consecutive playoff start in net with Megan Quinn and Renata Fast as her defenders and the top line of Shannon Stewart, Sarah Nurse, and Natalie Spooner up front. Jenna Dingeldein and Jessica Platt also stayed out of the lineup.

Calgary rolled out Zoe Hickel, Brianna Decker, and Rebecca Johnston at forward, Kacey Bellamy and Katelyn Gosling on the blue line and Alex Rigsby in goal.

First period

Natalie Spooner started things off with a shot on goal early but that was pretty much it for Toronto until their first power play of the night.

Tiley denied an excellent chance for Blayre Turnbull, demonstrating that she was very much on her game. Play was fast and aggressive, with the pucks sailing out of the rink a couple of times.

Brittany Howard got dumped by Brigette Lacquette in front of the Furies bench less than four minutes in and Toronto went to the advantage. The power play started off well with a shot right on Rigsby, who hugged it to her chest.

Then Johnston was off and running shorthanded but she was chased down by Mellissa Channell, who kept her from shooting. From there on in the Furies had trouble setting up again, allowing another Inferno shorthanded chance and more pucks in deep.

Julia Fedeski was called for tripping, but it took Toronto several seconds to actually get the puck and thus the whistle. It was generally a good kill for them once they got started, with a shorthanded chance for Spooner, several cleared pucks, a few good saves by Tiley and a call drawn by Nurse on Halli Krzyzaniak two seconds after the penalty expired.

This time the Furies had a slightly better power play. Rigsby had to make a save on Fast with Spooner on her doorstep, and later a point shot by Quinn shot looked to have beaten Rigsby entirely but didn’t go in. Renata Fast headed off to the bench looking to be in pain but stayed in the game.

For the rest of the period the Inferno absolutely dominated play. Spooner, Nurse and Shiann Darkangelo each had a chance on Rigsby but it was Tiley doing most of the work, and doing it in impressive fashion.

The official shot count for the period was 10 to 4 in favour of Calgary, but they had possession almost constantly so it seemed much much worse.

Second period

The second period was more of the same. The Furies continued to have trouble getting the puck into the offensive zone and Tiley continued to be excellent.

One of the Hickels drew a hooking call on Fast but managed to not only get the shot off but forced Tiley to make a second save off the rebound as well. Toronto sent out Carlee Campbell, Mellissa Channell, Brittany Howard and Shiann Darkangelo to start the penalty kill, but they couldn’t get the puck out to save their lives. Tiley finally smothered a puck to get the whistle and allow them to change. The second unit managed to clear it.

Things weren’t back at even strength for long before Nurse got the puck into the Calgary zone and drew a hooking call on Aina Mizukami while feeding Spooner, who passed to Fedeski for the shot.

It was not the best Furies power play we’ve seen, as they allowed a dangerous shorthanded chance, and Channell was eventually sent to the box for tripping up Turnbull in the neutral zone making it 4 on 4.

The Furies continued to block shots, Tiley continued to make saves, and the score stayed 0-0.

Toronto finally got some zone time at five on five when their first line trapped the Calgary third line in their own zone. Fast, Spooner, Nurse and Channell got cracks at Rigsby and eventually the Furies drew a hooking call on a tired Rebecca Leslie.

Spooner and Howard both had shots on the power play but they also allowed a shorthanded chance.

Back at even strength a funny bounce allowed Spooner to grab the puck and go on the breakaway. It looked like we were finally going to see a goal, but she shot just wide.

More saves by Tiley, another chance for Howard, and the score stayed nil. Shots on the period were 12 to 2 in favour of Calgary.

Third period

The Furies looked better to start the third period. They still didn’t have the puck much but they were getting the puck into the Inferno zone more often.

Finally Rebecca Johnston opened the scoring 4:55 into the period, tipping a Kacey Bellamy shot past Tiley to make it 1-0 Inferno. Katelyn Gosling got the secondary assist.

Turnbull was called for slashing 30 seconds later but more of the chances went to Calgary.

Back at even strength Decker almost immediately drew a holding call on Jess Vella. The Furies penalty killers battled hard but had trouble getting the puck out, and then Decker drew another penalty as Vella got out of the box, sending Howard off for hooking.

Nurse and Spooner had a shorthanded chance this time but couldn’t connect to get the puck on Rigsby. Lacquette had a shot that might have hit the crossbar but otherwise Tiley defended her net fiercely.

Despite all their power play time, the Inferno’s next goal came at 5 on 5 as Blayre Turnbull beat Tiley on a rebound with six minutes and change left to play. 2-0 Inferno, with an assist to Rebecca Leslie.

Shortly afterwards, Decker was called for a body check and the Furies got another power play opportunity. It was one of their better power plays but eventually the Inferno did get the puck out for a shorthanded chance.

Tiley was pulled with about 3:30 left in the game but Renata Fast was sent off for body checking not long afterwards (she may have saved a goal) and the Furies needed their goalie again.

Nurse and Spooner both got the puck out shorthanded but couldn’t get it on net. Spooner also got hit by a puck.

Back at five on five Nurse tried to spring Howard and Prévost lost a glove on her own shot attempt (which has been a theme with her lately).

Brianne Jenner killed any last hopes with an empty-netter with three seconds left in the game to make it 3-0 Calgary.

Three stars

3. Shea Tiley, Toronto Furies (39 saves)

2. Kacey Bellamy, Calgary Inferno (1 assist)

1. Rebecca Johnston, Calgary Inferno (game winning goal)

Notes

  • Whether they won this game or not, the Furies were going to owe Shea Tiley big. Since they couldn’t pull off a win, they owe her something extra nice.
  • It was interesting to see that Tiley got the start, I was expecting Chuli with Tiley going on Sunday if there was a loss. She’s got to be exhausted at this point but I can’t see the Furies going with Chuli after two performances like she’s had.
  • Calgary might have the largest seating capacity in the league but the attendance was depressing. Things filled up a bit more later in the game but the contrast to Montréal is quite something.

With game three being less than 24 hrs after game two, the home team has the advantage in both games, but it’s winner takes all. The games are happening almost simultaneously: Markham takes on Montréal at 1:30 pm EDT (stream here) and Toronto takes on Calgary at 2:00 pm EDT (stream here).