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.
This past weekend featured a series between Boston and Vanke and Calgary and Markham. Both Vanke and Calgary swept, giving the Inferno a commanding three-point lead in the standings. Meanwhile, Vanke is now third with eight points. The Rays have have won four games in a row, which is currently the longest winning streak in the league.
Calgary vs. Markham
Calgary swept the series to pull even further ahead in the standings. On Saturday, the Inferno pulled away with a 3-1 win. Rhianna Kurio scored first, but Markham's Karolina Urban tied the game in the same frame. Erica Kromm gave the Inferno the lead for good, while Louise Warren got the insurance goal. Lindsey Post made 22 saves in the win while Erica Howe stopped 28 in the loss.
"We have a very responsible group. So that I think is our biggest strength. It's mental," Calgary coach Tomas Pacina said. "The opponent scores and it doesn't take us long to tie the game up or come back and score, so we don't stay down too long. We are really good and quick and responding positvely to whatever is happening."
The Thunder took the lead the next night thanks to Kristen Richards' first-period tally, but Calgary potted two in the opening frame to get the lead. The teams entered the third with Calgary ahead 2-1, but the Inferno scored three goals in seven minutes to put the game away. The Inferno eventually won 7-2. Post stopped 19 in the win, while Liz Knox stopped 25.
"We really didn't play in the second," Pacina said. "We scored in bunches in the third. We had some good individual effort. We responded well. We talked about it in the dressing room that that performance of the second period was just not good enough for what we're aspiring to accomplish as a team."
Despite the offensive outburst and the two wins this weekend, Pacina said there's still a lot for the team to work on, and he called the players to address the priorities.
"I think it goes down to basics," Pacina said. "Our puck movement has to be better, it has to be smarter. We have to know when to move the puck and when to keep it. Our stops and starts defensivly, and offensivly, being in the right positions and not to skate out of those positions."
Boston vs. Vanke
The Blades put up a great effort on Saturday. Erin Kickham scored in the first and Lauren Dahm kept Vanke off the board for the next two periods, until Hanna Bunton tied the game midway through the third. Vanke won in the shootout. Dahm made 55 saves.
Boston's goaltending wasn't as on point the next night, as Robyn Chemago allowed four goals on 19 shots and was benched in favor of Dahm. Vanke rode a four-goal third period to take the 5-2 lead and eventually won 7-2.
Three Up, Three Down
↑ Cayley Mercer: Mercer is having quite a year. The rookie leads the CWHL in scring with 11 pionts and is on a five-game scoring streak. Four of those five contests have been mutli-point games, and she potted four points -- three assists and goal -- in Tuesday's game against Boston.
↑ Vanke's offense: Right now, the Rays have the streakiest offense in the league. Bunton has been hot of late. She's on a five-game goal scoring streak that has stretched from Oct. 28. Over that time she's potted six goals and three assists. Her teammates Brooke Webster and Cayley Mercer are also on five-game scoring streaks, and Mercer has a league-high 11 points over that stretch.
↑ Calgary's defense: Last year Calgary had the best netminding in the country, but this area was questionable this season after a few offseason losses. Lindsey Post has played well enough for them to win, but the defense has done a good job of limiting the shots she sees.
↓ Veteran scoring: It's the rookie show in the CWHL right now, as five of the top six scorers are rookies. That includes Vanke's Cayley Mercer, who leads the league with 11 points. Jamie Lee Rattray is the only non-veteran forward who's in the top. Keep in mind, though, a lot of those veterans are off preparing for the Olympics.
↓ Boston's defense: This may be permantntly on this list, as the Blades have struggled to help their goaltenders a lot. In the past Boston has allowed aroud 40 to 50 shots per game, and that hasn't changed this season.
↓ Markham's goaltending tandem: The Thunder have used a goaltending tandem for what seems like forever, using both Liz Knox and Erica Howe to protect the net. It's been rare that one has gotten preferance over the other, but Howe has a .963 save percentage right now, while Knox's is .908. It might be time for one netminder to take the lead.
Coming up Next
Les Canadiennes vs. Kunlun: November 11 at 1 PM (Eastern Time); November 12 at 1:30 PM (Eastern Time), November 14 at 7 PM (Eastern Time) at Bell Centre and Arena Michel-Normandin
Toronto vs. Calgary: Nov. 11 at 7 PM (Eastern Time); Nov. 12 at 1 PM (Eastern Time) at MasterCard Center Rink 1
Filed under: ice hockey; cwhl; boston blades; vanke rays; markham thunder; calgary inferno
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