The Furies came into this semi-final series saying that the regular season was over and playoffs marked a new beginning. Certainly they had history on their side: their 2014 Clarkson Cup win followed another fourth-place regular season finish. Unfortunately the 2015-16 Canadiennes are a much more dominant team than the Montreal Stars of 2013-14 and it showed.
Semi-Final Game 1, 5-1 Canadiennes
Things looked bright early on as the Furies controlled play off the opening faceoff leading to a scoring chance for Natalie Spooner 10 seconds into the game. Unfortunately it was one of only 5 shots on goal in the period for Toronto. The Canadiennes dominated play, even during the Furies' second power play of the game. However, with both teams giving each other lots of space in this period, Christina Kessler had a clear view of most shots and showed off some very nice work in net, including a gorgeous glove save late.
The start of the second period was delayed briefly because Sonja van der Bliek was having some trouble with her mask. Things I learned: even the backup goalie must have full equipment on while sitting on the bench.
The second period started slowly in part due to a number of icings (two for the Canadiennes, one for the Furies) back to back. The Furies managed more scoring chances this period, but also allowed Montreal a number of odd-man rushes. It wasn't much of a surprise when the Canadiennes first line connected for the first goal of the game. Ann-Sophie Bettez from Kim Deschenes and Marie-Philip Poulin - a common refrain over the regular season as they finished second, third and first in league scoring respectively. Two minutes later Shannon Moulson was called for interference and it took only 39 seconds of power play time before Caroline Ouellette scored for the 2-0 lead. Poulin and Bettez got the assists, because of course they did.
The most noticeable Furies' forward this period was definitely Emily Fulton. She seemed to be trying for shots every few seconds. Due to bad luck, good Canadiennes defence and Charline Labonte, everything stayed out of the net.
Ouellette finished off the second period scoring with a "you can't let her do that" play, carrying the puck around the back of the net to a few feet out in front on the opposite side and then just waiting until she saw a hole in Kessler's positioning. In the intermission interview she attributed the amount of time and space she had to her teammates tying up the Furies' defence, but letting Caroline Ouellette have enough time alone to pick her spot is not a wise move by any team.
A late penalty to Michelle Bonello in the second meant Toronto started the third on the penalty kill and Kessler was inordinately busy. Things didn't get much better at even strength and Poulin racked up her third point of the game with a beauty of a goal, unassisted. Just over two minutes later she did it again, this time assisted by Lauriane Rougeau and Julie Chu. The Canadiennes have a lot of great scorers that the opposing team needs to pay attention to, but leaving Poulin open in front of the net without a defender in her face twice in less than 150 seconds is a bad idea.
That marked the end of the game for Kessler, and the playoff debut of Sonja van der Bliek with her shiny new Furies jersey! Perhaps inspired by this, Spooner and Alyssa Baldin charged into the offensive zone a few minutes later and finally found a way past Labonte with more than half the period left to go. (Fun fact: this means that all five of the regular season scoring leaders scored at least one point in this game.) Despite another heroic shorthanded effort by Spooner in the last minute of the game, that is where the scoring ended.
- Marie-Philip Poulin (2G, 2A)
- Caroline Ouellette (2G)
- Ann-Sophie Bettez (1G, 1A, 2PIM)
But Saturday is another day, with a nationally televised game at 5:00 pm Eastern on Sportsnet 360. Tune in to watch an amazing comeback or at least some amazing hockey.
Edit: Today's lineup, in net:— Toronto Furies (@TorontoCWHL) February 26, 2016
Introducing for the first time wearing her own jersey, Number 30-- van der Bliek