The National Women's Hockey League continues its offseason with numerous player signings, its first international draft and several front office moves. In case you've missed anything over the last few weeks, let's take a look at what's happened in the league.
The Furies finished their season with a loss to Les Canadiennes in the semifinals. This loss capped a difficult year for Toronto, where the Furies finished fourth with six wins. But it was one more than last season, when Toronto also finished fourth.
Toronto's biggest win was the 6-5 victory over Calgary, when Natalie Spooner had five goals and an assist.
"I think, as a team, we at times proved to ourselves that we could win games and we could be right there with some of the best teams in the league," Toronto head coach Sommer West said. "And at the end of the day, I guess we just didn’t have the fire power."
The Furies were missing some of the key players, as Julie Allen and Jennelle Kohanchuk were out for the whole season. Kelly Terry, who played well last year, also missed a portion of the season.
"I think a lot of people improved and learned new things and really got their eyes opened to what it takes to be in this league," West said.
It's hard to say the offense as a whole, because the offense did struggle this year. But the Furies always had a big threat in Natalie Spooner, and she once almost single-handily beat another team. When Spooner was playing well or drawing attention away and opening up other players, Toronto's offense could be a nightmare for opponents. Spooner is a finalist for the league MVP.
A big issue with Toronto, along with injuries, was that the Furies couldn't play well for 60 minutes. It's something that West emphasized throughout the season, especially during a difficult stretch of the season. But West was pleased with the team's effort against Les Canadiennes attributing the loss to lack of depth and numbers.
“We just didn’t have the numbers," West said. "We had some players that didn’t travel with us, and end of the day, when you’re going to face the No. 1 team in the league, not having our whole team there really put us behind the eight-ball.
"You can’t compete for 60 minutes without your whole lineup and you tend to get bad habits as the game goes on and you get tired."
Players who stepped up
Natalie Spooner led the Furies with 30 points and 17 goals. She was instrumental in the win over Calgary, scoring five goals and assisting on the sixth. West said Jessica Vella, who had eight points, improved the most.
"I would look at somebody like a Jess Vella who comes to every game and is willing to sacrifice and do all the little things," West said. "She never takes a shift off and takes pride in everything she does. There’s a few players on our team that did, that but I think she’s one of the ones that really stepped up into a new role this year and really took advantage of it.”
Christina Kessler was Toronto's backstop. Through 19 games she made 541 saves, the second-most in the league. She also finished with a .902 save percentage.
“I think she’s pretty steady in who she is and how she plays," West said. "I’d take her every day of the week and twice on Sunday on my team.
"I just don’t think our team really defensively played well around her. She had a couple of big saves, she might have let five goals in on each game, but at the same time, she made big saves before that. You got to have some help from your teammates and there’s a lot of games where she didn’t have that.
"I think she played really well and was the backbone of this team all season.”
If Toronto can play more consistently next season and get some players back from injuries, they'll be able to give some of the top teams trouble, and become a real playoff threat.
Filed under: cwhl; Toronto Furies; ice hockey
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