Hopes were flying high as the Furies and Inferno met for game two of their best-of-three playoff series. After an unexpected win on Friday evening, it seemed like anything might happen.

Toronto got out of the gate quickly - an odd-man rush driven by Kelly Terry brought the puck down into the Calgary end and Natalie Spooner finished the play off with the goal past Geneviève Lacasse. The Inferno's much-touted goaltending depth suddenly seemed like it might not be enough to keep them in the playoffs.

After the early defensive lapse Calgary found a second gear.  Kessler showed she was definitely on her game, making some sparkling saves through two penalty kills and consistent pressure in the Furies' zone. Her teammates did their best to support her, with a number of shorthanded chances and some nice defensive moves to avoid many second chances by the Inferno. Unfortunately, just past the halfway mark in the second period, Calgary won a faceoff in the Furies zone and defender Katelyn Gosling got the puck to Haley Irwin, who managed to beat Kessler with a quick shot to tie the game.

The Furies had a late power play and rode the momentum a little bit but couldn't beat Lacasse.

The second period started in a flurry of special teams. Renata Fast was sent to the box for holding, followed by the same call on Calgary’s Meaghan Mikkelson only 80 seconds later. Fast was barely back on the ice when the Furies were called for too many men. However, the real problem for Toronto came when Natalie Spooner headed off to the locker room less than halfway through the period. Although Spooner only assisted on two of yesterday’s five goals, she’s a major part of the team and it was obvious the players felt her absence keenly.

The pace in the second period was a lot more settled than the first, with both teams taking time to set up plays and play a little more cautiously. Thus, the Inferno’s second goal was a bit of a surprise. Blayre Turnbull came into the Toronto zone late in the period and sent almost a lazy shot around Furies defender Michelle Saunders that found its way past Kessler on the opposite side, putting Calgary up 2-1.

Shortly thereafter Spooner returned to the ice and play sped up, with several chances for the Furies. Lacasse kept everything out, choosing to stop play several times rather than allow any rebounds.

Erica Kromm was called for hooking at the final whistle of the second, so the Furies started the third period on the power play.  They took a lot of time setting up and allowed a couple of zone exits without really making life hard for Lacasse. Unfortunately, the  Inferno power play had more luck. With Jess Vella in the box for interference and Erin Ambrose hurt blocking the puck, Iya Gavrilova took advantage of the moment to get in close to the net and snap a shot five-hole. Kessler couldn’t quite handle it and the score went to 3-1.

With just under three quarters of the period left, the Furies weren’t quite ready to give up.  They had some 5-on-3 time shortly after the goal but the power play turned into passing practice and Kessler had to be sharp on a shorthanded breakaway. With the penalties killed Calgary continued to press and Toronto had trouble making it through the neutral zone for very long. Play was still very back and forth and it never felt like the Furies were out of the game. Spooner had a particularly dangerous chance with a little over five and a half minutes to go, but she shot high. Kessler did everything she could to keep things close.

Michela Cava took a bad penalty late but even on the kill the Furies managed a couple of opportunties. The best was one by Spooner, who snagged the puck off a blocked shot for a shorthanded breakaway and forced Lacasse to make a great save. Kessler was pulled in the final two minutes but in the end, the Inferno forced game three.

Other Notes

The ice was very shiny for the third period and some areas, especially in front of the penalty boxes, never seemed to dry properly. Winsport had some mechanical difficulties earlier in the month, and this might have been a holdover from that.

Jess Vella had a good game, being her usual pest self, always looking to make something happen.

Meaghan Mikkelson and Jillian Saulnier are both very dangerous players. While I’m not thrilled the Furies will have to deal with them again tomorrow, I’m looking forward to cheering them on at the World Championships at the end of March.

It was never clear what had happened with Spooner. Hopefully whatever it was she’ll be good to go for tomorrow.

Geneviève Lacasse is an awesome goalie, but now the Inferno have to figure out who goes tomorrow. Delayne Brian, who backstopped Calgary to the Clarkson Cup last year, was the backup for today in lieu of Maschmeyer.

When Kessler’s making these kinds of saves, it would be really nice if her teammates could get her the W.

Three Stars

  1. Blayre Turnbull (GWG, 2 PIM)
  2. Iya Gavrilova (1G)
  3. Christina Kessler (37 SV)

There is hope for tomorrow. Even in a loss, the Furies look like a different team than they did the last time we saw them against Calgary. They're driving play so much better, getting good offensive chances and even when they did get pinned in their own zone it wasn't for nearly the same stretches of time. Tune in at 12:45 MST / 2:45 EST at http://www.youtube.com/cwhleague (or possibly http://www.youtube.com/InfernoCWHL ) to see the winner-takes-all finale!