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.
Only three teams were in action this weekend, as Les Canadiennes faced Markham and Toronto.
After the weekend, the Inferno are still on top of the CWHL with 18 points, while Les Canadiennes are now tied with Kunlun for fourth place.
Markham Thunder vs. Les Canadiennes
Saturday's game was a close one, as Les Canadiennes edged Markham in a shootout. Laura McIntosh scored first for the Thunder, and Kristen Barbara extended the lead to 2-0 in the second. Noémie Marin also scored in the fray, which left Les Canadiennes down by one. Finally, Ann-Sophie Bettez tied the game early in the third period to eventually send the game to a shootout after a scoreless overtime.
In the shootout, Bettez buried a shot behind Howe stick side that would stand as the game winner. Emerance Maschmeyer made 22 stops in the win, while Erica Howe made 28.
"We hadn't played in a while, almost 18-20 days [since] a league game, so we had to adjust pretty quickly to the game speed," said Les Canadiennes assistant coach Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux. "I think our biggest strength this weekend in the first game was to adjust quickly to the game speed."
Toronto Furies vs. Les Canadiennes
Les Canadiennes' offense broke out on Sunday, scoring eight goals. The team scored four unanswered goals, including three in the first period. Les Canadiennes entered the second period ahead 6-1. While Toronto struck first in the third, Les Canadiennes tacked on two more in the final frame to take the 8-3 win. Sonja van der Bliek made 20 saves and allowed five goals for the Furies. She was pulled for Sami Jo Small, who made 15 saves. Maschmeyer stopped 22 in the win.
"The lines were really working well this weekend. We made some changes in the last game and we kept those changes," Breton-Lebreux said.
Three Up, Two Down
↑ Ann Sophie-Bettez: Last week I said the players who we expect to score aren't scoring, and that included Bettez. This past weekend, she powered the Les Canadiennes offense. She had four goals in two games, including a hat trick on Sunday. Those four goals made up half of her total goals this season. She also had a shootout winner.
"In the first game, I have to admit that she was the fastest player out there and she was actually using her speed in the neutral zone to make something happen, and nobody could catch her. It was really nice to see," Breton-Lebreux said.
↑ Les Candiennes defense: Maschmeyer is a world-class goaltender, but playing for Les Canadiennes means she doesn't face many shots. That stayed the same this week, as the team gave up just 24 and 25 shots in each game.
↑ League parity: The expansion has made the CWHL more competitive on the ice. Two new teams have given the leagues more players and talent to compete against, even in an Olympic year. Right now the two expansion teams are competing for the top spot, challenging the incumbents Les Canadiennes and Calgary.
"We are surprised by the caliber of the Chinese teams and that brings a different aspect and also more variety to play against," Breton-Lebreux said. "We love the parity this year. Every game we have to prepare well, we have to watch more video, try to find weaknesses or tendencies. So it pushes everyone to be best, the players, the coaches."
↓ Sonja van der Bliek: Van der Bliek stopped just 20 of 25 goals when she was pulled on Sunday. She still has a .914 save percentage on the season.
↓ Markham: The Thunder were extremely promising just last year, but have struggled this season. Markham has just three wins and nine points this year, which is good for fifth in the CWHL.
↓ Les Canadiennes' physicality: As mentioned earlier this season, Les Canadiennes haven't been scoring as much as they used to are and are struggling against physical opponents.
"We need to work on being physical and intense all game long from the start to the end," Breton-Lebreux said. "Mostly the physical aspect of the game. It's a little bit more phsyical than in the past I would say, it's getting more physical each year; but this year especially, the other teams are using contact to slow us down."
Coming up Next
Kunlun vs. Vanke: December 8 at 6:30 PM (China Standard Time); December 10 at 4:30 PM (China Standard Time). In US Eastern time, these games are at 5:30 AM on December 8 and 3:30 AM on December 10 respectively.
Montreal vs. Toronto: December 9 at 5:30 PM (Eastern); December 10 at 1:30 PM (Eastern)
Markham vs. Boston: December 9 at 7:30 PM (Eastern Time); December 10 at 12:30 PM (Eastern)
Filed under: cwhl; les canadiennes de montreal; markham thunder; Toronto Furies; ann-sophie bettez; ice hockey; lisa-marie breton-lebreux
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