The weekend in CWHL play, most teams were dealing with absences of some key players for the pre-Olympics series between Team USA and Team Canada. Some teams surprised with more goals, while at least one team had their offense fall flat.
The Blades won their second game in a row, defeating Brampton 4-3 on Saturday, which led to a series split. Calgary squashed Toronto in a sweep as they limited the Furies to just two goals on the weekend.
Heading into the break, the Inferno now have a three-point lead over Les Canadiennes. The Thunder are still far away from first, as the Inferno have twice as many points as Brampton. Toronto, thanks to the losses, sits seven points out of first.
Now on a two-week break, the CWHL resumes play on January 7.
The Canada-U.S. winter series concluded on Monday night with a comeback win by Canada, and Marie-Philip Poulin (who else?) contributed the game-winning tally.
News and Notes
Blades head coach Brian McCloskey said Kristina Brown was moved from forward back to defense and that her play has improved as a result.
Calgary's Brianne Jenner was named the CWHL Player of the Month after recording 11 points (5G, 3A) in November.
Brampton Thunder vs Boston Blades
The Blades opened up the weekend with their second straight win, topping the Thunder 4-3. Kayla Tutino scored 1:13 into the game to give Boston an early 1-0 lead. The teams entered the second tied at 1-1, thanks to a goal from Jamie Lee Rattray. In the middle frame, Jess Jones gave Brampton the lead, but the Blade offense wasn't done. Melissa Bizzari and Kate Leary gave Boston a 3-2 lead before Jones tied it with her second.
In the third period, Erin Kickham scored the game-winning goal. Lauren Dahm stopped 37 shots in the win, while Brampton's Erica Howe made 23 saves.
"We played very well the first game," Blades coach Brian McCloskey said. "I think we ran out of gas and I'm sure Brampton played with a lot more urgency the second game."
The Thunder came out looking for revenge on Sunday and found it, winning 8-0.
"We have to really be patient in terms of defending and being patient offensively, not trying to force things that aren't there, because when we do that, it ends up transitionally causing us trouble," McCloskey said.
Brampton scored five goals in the first period to take a 5-0 lead. The Thunder scored twice in the second and once in the third, while Liz Knox made 20 saves for the shutout. For Boston, Lauren Dahm made six saves on 11 shots through 15 minutes and was relieved by Jetta Rackleff, who stopped 31 of 34 shots.
"We executed a lot of our plays that we wanted to," Brampton head coach Tyler Fines said.
Toronto Furies vs. Calgary Inferno
Calgary dominated the weekend with a 5-1 and 3-1 victory over the Furies. Saturday's game started with a scoreless first and a slow-scoring second, but the Inferno entered the third with a 1-0 lead. Calgary posted a four-goal third period, thanks to Bailey Bram's second of the contest and two tallies from Iya Gavrilova.
Delayne Brian was Calgary's netminder for the night, posting 22 saves. Christina Kessler made 26 saves over 45 minutes with four goals allowed, while Sonja van der Bliek made six saves over 14:24 in relief.
Bram again opened up the scoring in the second matchup of the weekend, giving the Inferno a 1-0 lead in the first period. Sarah Davis made it 2-0 in the second, but Emily Fulton cut the lead in half. Louise Warren sealed the win with an empty-net goal late in the third.
Kessler was in net again for Toronto and made 23 stops, while Emerance Maschmeyer stopped 23 shots for Calgary.
Three Up, Three Down
↑ Boston's Offense: The Blades did get shut out on Sunday, but that doesn't mitigate the fact that Boston has scored 10 goals in their last four games. Over that three-game stretch before Sunday's loss, the Blades averaged 3.33 goals per game. The four goals on Saturday were the highest in a game by Boston all season.
"[It] wasn't the number of goals we scored, but just in terms of quality offensive opportunities [it was] probably one of our better outings on Saturday," McCloskey said.
↑ Lauren Dahm: Is there anything that needs to be said?
"Lauren Dahm was really sharp so we didn't give them a lot of first-chance goals. She was making initial saves and we were doing a pretty good job of clearing it," McCloskey said.
"She made the timely saves and she allowed us to hang in there and battle back. The [Saturday] game was a seesaw affair on Saturday, so I have to give Lauren a lot of credit."
↑ Bailey Bram: Bram is creeping up in the scoring list and has 12 points this season. She's on a three-game goal scoring streak and netted four points -- three goals and an assist -- over the weekend.
↓ Parity: When the season started, I assumed that this would be a four-way race for the first place in the standings. There are four teams who are still competitive, although I expected Brampton to win more games than they have, but the closeness of the teams hasn't been reflected in the standings. Heading into the winter break, it looks like Calgary is still the team to beat. While Les Canadiennes are close, they're the only team who can challenge for a regular-season title. Maybe next season we'll see at least four teams who can challenge each other for the No. 1 spot.
↓ Toronto's offense: The Furies were without Natalie Spooner, who was with Team Canada, and only scored two goals on the weekend. The Inferno also stifled the Toronto power play, keeping the Furies off the board in eight chances.
↓ Brampton's consistency: Maybe I should just write "everyone's consistency", because I seem to be typing this every week with a different team. The Thunder are good and they have talent, but they've struggled to win at times this year.
"Not being prepared on Saturday cost us two points and showed that if we don't come to play, we're going to be on the losing side of things," Fines said.
Coming up Next
Boston Blades vs Les Canadiennes: January 7 at 5:30 PM; January 8 at 2:30 PM (Eastern Time) at Walter Brown Arena
Calgary Inferno vs Brampton Thunder: January 7 at 7:45 PM; January 8 at 12:00 PM (Mountain Time) at Winsport Arena A
(Photo credit: Lauren Dahm/Twitter)