The National Women's Hockey League is currently in its offseason following its sixth year of play, but things have been anything but normal over the past few weeks. A lot has transpired recently, and it appears as though this could be the tip of the iceberg.
The second half of the season began over the weekend, featuring a winter matchup between Les Canadiennes and the Blades. On the other side, Brampton and Calgary faced off for a two-game set.
Les Canadiennes and Calgary both earned the sweep, but a couple of the games were close. With both of the top teams winning this weekend, Calgary still holds first place, with a three-point lead over Les Canadiennes.
News and Notes
Les Canadiennes' Cathy Chartrand earned her 96th CWHL point over the weekend and now leads all defenders in career points.
On the same defensive note, Charline Labonte earned her 12th career shutout -- she's just three away from overtaking Sami Jo Small for the CWHL record.
Calgary will travel to Japan to play the Japanese national team on January 27 and 28.
Boston has kept Kristina Brown back on defense, which has helped the team's defensive depth, head coach Brian McCloskey said.
Boston Blades vs. Les Canadiennes
On Saturday, Les Canadiennes squeaked out a 2-0 win over Boston. Leslie Oles scored in the first, but the Blades kept Les Canadiennes out of the net until the third, when Ann-Sophie Bettez scored. The Blades defense limited Les Canadiennes to 30 shots on net while taking 27 shots of their own.
"We didn't outshoot [Les Canadiennes]; they carried the play more than we did, but we had a lot of really good scoring chances and [Labonté] just denied us," said Boston head coach Brian McCloskey. "She really earned the shutout. We've had teams shut us out when we didn't generate a lot of scoring, but that wasn't the case on Saturday."
Sunday's game was higher-scoring. Bettez and Marie-Philip Poulin gave Les Canadiennes a 2-0 lead into the second, but the Blades scored three goals in the third period to take the lead.
Bettez scored twice for the hat trick to give Les Canadiennes a 4-3 lead. Kate Leary scored her second to tie the game, but Katia Clement-Hyrda scored a minute later to give Les Canadiennes the lead for good.
"The first game was a bit of the coming back from the holidays. It was hard for us, but we managed to get the win," said Les Canadiennes assistant coach Lisa-Marie Breton Lebreux.
Lauren Dahm made 38 stops, while Cahterine Herron started for Les Canadiennes and stopped 14 shots.
"We're not playing one good shift and then a couple weak shifts," McCloskey said. "We're able to sustain some flow in the game and it's helped with our confidence."
Brampton Thunder vs. Calgary Inferno
Saturday's game was an exciting affair, featuring back-and-forth scoring that kept both offenses engaged. Blayre Turnbull gave Calgary the 1-0 lead heading into first, but the second period featured five goals as both teams fought for the lead.
Jess Jones tied it for Brampton a minute into the middle frame. Bailey Bram regained the lead for Calgary, but just a minute later, Courtney Birchard tied it for the Thunder. Iya Gavrilova scored 59 seconds later for Calgary, but Laura Fortino made sure the teams entered the third knotted at 3-3. Gavrilova scored her second of the game in the last frame, giving Calgary the 4-3 win.
"[We were] competing with a really good hockey club, we were with them the whole way," said Brampton head coach Tyler Fines. "We were just able to keep up."
Brampton's Liz Knox got the start and finished with 16 saves, while Delayne Brian made 26 saves.
The Inferno pulled away with a 4-1 win the next day. Brampton's Jamie Lee Rattray opened the scoring in the first, but Hayleigh Cudmore tied it in the second. Rebecca Johnston, Gavrilova, and Jessica Campbell all scored in the third. Knox made 27 saves, while Genevieve Lacasse stopped 26 shots for Calgary.
"The [players] are playing hard together and they're being rewarded by having some good outings." -- Boston's Brian McCloskey on the Blades' progress
Three Up, Three Down
↑ The Blades: While Boston didn't beat Les Canadiennes, the Blades kept both games close and had a great defensive game on Saturday. The Blades -- who normally give up around 50 shots per game -- limited Les Canadiennes to just 30 shots.
On Sunday, Boston's offense was on display, as the Blades scored four goals on 18 shots.
"We're just playing much better hockey right now. As a team, collectively, we're playing better, we're just getting much better balance out of all of our players," McCloskey said.
"I'm encouraged by the tight-knit chemistry that we seem to have developed. The girls are playing hard together and they're being rewarded by having some good outings."
↑ Exciting games: All the games this weekend were decided by two goals or less (if you don't count empty netters) and a couple of them were back and forth affairs. It made for an exciting weekend of CWHL hockey -- and you can catch the replay, at some point, on CWHL Live's archives.
↑ Jess Jones: As of late, Jones has played like lightning for the Thunder (pun intended). She ranks fourth in the league with 22 points, recorded a goal and an assist over the weekend, and has now scored nine points after he last five games. Jones has scored in all but three games this year.
↓ Boston's penalty kill: The Blades have usually been good on the penalty kill. They weren't bad over the weekend, but did allow two power play goals on Sunday.
↓ Penalties: I mean penalties as in, Les Canadiennes and Boston took a lot of penalties over the weekend. Les Canadiennes took 10 penalties over the weekend, five in each game. On Sunday, the teams combined for 11 penalties. Brampton also took a few penalties.
"We took some penalties that hurt us, so we'll have to discuss that as a team and work on it in practice," Fines said.
↓ Les Canadiennes' execution: At times this has been a problem for the team, although this weekend's issues with execution could've stemmed from the long break.
"[The] execution was off a little bit, as well as team chemistry in general," Breton-Lebreux said. "In the third period in the second game, we got much better."
Brampton Beast vs. Toronto Furies: January 14 at 8:00 PM; January 15 at 1:30 PM (Eastern Time) at MasterCard Center-Rink 1 and Brampton Memorial Arena
Les Canadiennes vs. Calgary Inferno: January 14 at 7:30 PM; January 15 at 1:30 PM (Eastern Time) at Complexe Sportif Bell and Centre Civique Dollard-des-Ormeaux
(Photo credit: Boston Blades/Twitter)
Filed under: cwhl; ice hockey; boston blades; les canadiennes de montreal; calgary inferno; brampton thunder
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