NCAA Women's Hockey: The Wisconsin Badgers on 2023 National Champions
It's difficult to call a program like Wisconsin an underdog, but after suffering the longest
The past two weeks in CWHL action were mostly centered in China. Markham and Toronto traveled there for a week, where the pair faced off against Kunlun and Vanke. In Calgary, the Inferno swept Boston in a two-game set last weekend.
Vanke's offense came to life as the Rays blew past their opponents, while some of Kunlun's games were on the closer side.
The Rays and Red Star occupy the second and third spots in the standings. Vanke is just two points behind Calgary while Kunlun is just two points below Vanke. Les Canadiennes were idle last week, but they are currently four points behind Kunlun.
Vanke started the weekend with a sweep over the Thunder. Brooke Webster scored a goal in both the first and second to give Vanke a 2-0 lead. Scoring broke out in the third, as the Rays scored four goals in four minutes to take the 6-0 lead for the eventual 6-1 win. Erica Howe made 26 saves on 32 shots while Elaine Chuli stopped 29.
The scoring was distributed differently on Sunday, as Vanke scored three goals in the opening five minutes of the game. Both Hanna Bunton and Cayley Mercer scored twice en route to the 5-2 win. Liz Knox made 19 stops and Chulie made 13.
Vanke then went on to sweep Toronto, winning one game by five goals and the other by just one. Wednesday's game featured a 5-0 shutouts thanks to goals from Emily Janiga, Hanna Bunton, Emma Woods and Cayley Mercer. Janiga scored twice while Elaine Chulie made 30 saves in the shutout. Sonja van der Bliek made 20 saves.
Sunday's game was a closer contest. Brooke Webster gave Vanke a 1-0 lead in the first, but Toronto scored twice in the second to take the 2-1 lead. Cayley Mercer scored just eight seconds after Emily Fulton to tie the game. Vanke ended up continuing its winning streak by earning the victory in a shootout. Chuli made 35 saves and van der Bliek stopped 34.
On Saturday, Kelli Stack struck in the first period to give Kunlun a 1-0 lead. Emily Fulton tied it for Toronto in the second. The Red Stars scored twice in the third to take the win. Sonja van der Bliek made 35 saves in the loss and Noora Raty stopped 23 of 24.
Kunlun scored the only two goals of the game Sunday in the first period thanks to Baiwei and Stack. Noora Räty made 22 saves in the shutout, while Amanda Makela stopped 29 of 31 shots for Toronto.
Red Star then swept Markham. Both teams scored in the first and entered the third locked in a 1-1 tie. Kunlun scored three goals in the final frame to take the 4-2 win. Erica Howe made 46 saves in the loss while Noora Raty stopped 34.
Zoe Hickel scored the lone goal of the game with a tally in the first period. Liz Knox made 27 saves while Räty stopped 22.
Calgary swept Boston to stay atop the standings. It began with a 5-2 win on Saturday. The Inferno scored thrice in the first to take a 3-1 lead into the second. Calgary added a goa in the second and the teams exchanged tallies in the third. Lauren Dahm made 36 saves and Lindsey Post stopped for Calgary.
Sunday began with two first-period Inferno goals. Calgary and Boston both scored in the second, but the Inferno added an insurance goal in the third for a 4-1 win. Dahm made 26 saves and Toni Ross stopped 13 of 14.
↑ The new expansion teams: I've mentioned this before, but it needs to be said again. Both Kunlun and Vanke have been playing well of late, but they played especially well at home these past two weeks.
Both Kunlun and Vanke swept, meaning the expansion teams went 8-0. While Toronto and Markham aren't at the top of the CWHL, that's still impressive.
Vanke is on a league-high seven game win streak, while Kunlun is on a five-game win streak. Vanke did not lose in the month of November.
↑ Shezhen Universiade Sports Center: The venue hosted eight games over the span of six days, and it was quite a spectacular event. Since the games were in China Standard Time, it may have been difficult for some folks to watch. Luckily, they can be downloaded or streamed in high resolution from the CWHL's website.
↑ Vanke's Offense: The Rays have been really been scoring. They put up 19 goals over four games, and Hanna Bunton pulled her scoring streak to eight games before it was snapped on November 22. She posted 14 points over that stretch. Cayley Mercer is stringing together a streak of her own. Over the past three games she has four pounts. Mercer now leads the league with 19 points, but her teammates Brooke Webster and Ashleigh Brykaliuk--also both rookies -- are right behind her with 17 each. Bunton ranks fifth with 14 points.
Elaine Chulie in goal deserves a shoutout, too, for giving her team the opportunity to put up these gaudy numbers. She allowed five goals over the week and has allowed three goals or more just once.
↓ Toronto's offense: The Furies struggled to score. They were shut out twice over the week and scored just three goals over the four games.
↓ Lauren Dahm: The Blades usually give up a lot of shots and a lot of chances, but their goaltending has usually been strong. But Dahm allowed nine goals and stopped just 26 shots out of 30 on Sunday.
↓ Veteran Scorers: The scoring leaderboard is made up mostly of rookies, thanks in part to Vanke. And players who sit right below them are mostly second-year skaters. The production has been down for players like Ann-Sophie Bettez who have regularly occupied the top of the charts (although she did lose a major linemate in Marie-Philip Poulin this season).
Markham vs. Montreal: December 2 at 7:30 PM (Eastern Time) at Thornhill Community Centre
Toronto vs. Montreal: December 3 at 1 PM (Eastern Time) at MasterCard Center - Rink 1