The Toronto Furies made it a streak of upsets in a week where every series ended in a sweep.
Les Canadiennes de Montréal won all three games against Vanke, putting them in sole possession of first place -- two points ahead of Kunlun Red Star. The Red Star, for their part, swept Boston (with one game to go), and the Toronto Furies posted a surprise sweep over Calgary to keep their (admittedly slim) playoff hopes alive.
Around the League
- Toronto hosted the Inferno for their You Can Play game, which was televised nationally on Sportsnet.
- The Boston Blades held their annual MS Awareness game supporting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
- Les Canadiennes honored the Équipe Québec girls pee-wee team that will compete at the Tournoi International de Hockey Pee-Wee de Québec, coached by Caroline Ouellette.
- The league formally announced that the 2018 Clarkson Cup Final will be held at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto on March 25.
Vanke Rays vs. Les Canadiennes de Montréal
Montreal jumped to a 5-0 lead after the first period on Saturday, finishing with a 7-3 win over Vanke.
"We did our homework in the sense that we watched them on the web to see what kind of team they are and we had some material on them," said Montreal head coach Dany Brunet. "For special teams in particular, we had a very good idea, and for 5-on-5 we more or less knew what to expect."
Katia Clément-Heydra opened the scoring at 7:15. Emmanuelle Blais followed it up 56 seconds later, and Karell Emard made it 3-0 not two minutes after that. Tracy-Ann Lavigne netted her first CWHL goal at 17:27, and Kayla Tutino closed the period with just three seconds remaining.
"We talked about having a huge start and we weren't expecting it that much, but we're really happy with it," said Clément-Heydra.
Elaine Chuli was replaced by Zhang Tianyi to start the second. Clément-Heydra tallied her second of the game 1:27 into the middle frame, and Ann-Sophie Bettez made it 7-0 at 6:19 before the Rays got on the board. He Xin, Fang Xin, and Zhao Qinan combined for the first all-Chinese two-assist goal in league history at 11:41; Emily Janiga made it 7-2; and Hanna Bunton scored at 18:07 to round out the game before the scoreless third period.
Caroline Ouellette had two assists in her season debut. In the dying minutes she took a shot that the crowd and players all thought was a goal, but which was waived off by the referees, who allowed play to continue. She remains one shy of sole possession of the league's all-time goal-scoring record.
"Early on with the coaches we put [this date] as the fastest that it could happen," she said of her quick return to the ice. "I saw my doctor and he was like, 'I think you could have run a marathon the next week [after giving birth], so go ahead and go play hockey!'"
Both teams were perfect on the penalty kill, with Les Canadiennes going 0-for-6 on the power play and Vanke going 0-for-3.
Emerance Maschmeyer saved 9 of 12 shots for Montreal. Chuli allowed five goals on 19 shots for the Rays, while Zhang made 24 saves on 26 shots through 40 minutes.
"[For the next games] we have to start the way we started today -- be hungry, get pucks in the net, and just have fun," said Clément-Heydra. "We had a lot of fun out there!"
The 20-year-old Zhang made her first CWHL start on Sunday, a move that head coach Rob Morgan said was designed to give Chuli some time to rest and recover.
"That's tough," he said of the 14-0 blow-out. "We put a young Chinese goalie into a situation where she's probably not ready, but we needed to give Elaine a full two days off because she's banged up."
Bettez got things started at 3:56, followed by Blais and Sarah Lefort.
Emard opened the second period scoring with a power-play goal at 5:54. Lefort tallied her second on the power play at 17:25 and Clément-Heydra added another power-play marker with a minute left.
Clément-Heydra struck again just 24 seconds into the third period, and Lefort earned her hat trick 41 seconds later. Clément-Heydra got her own hat trick, shorthanded, at 2:36, and added another less that two minutes after that. Kim Deschênes made it 11-0 not three minutes later, and Lefort added a pair of goals around the midway point to bring her total to five on the evening. Emard rounded it out with a power-play goal at 12:46.
Les Canadiennes were 4-for-5 on the power play and perfect on four kills.
Maschmeyer turned away 21 pucks for the shut-out. Zhang made 35 saves on 47 shots through 49:51. She was briefly replaced by Chuli mid-game, but returned to close it out. Chuli stopped six of eight in 10:09.
The day of rest before Tuesday's game seemed to serve Vanke well, as they held Montreal to two goals despite Sunday's blow-out.
"We talked about playing with purpose and passion and pride, all those culture words that help build champions," said Morgan of the team's regrouping.
After a scoreless first period, Blais put Montreal on the board at 12:19 of the second.
Noémie Marin netted her 128th career goal on the power-play at 2:31 of the third, putting her just two goals behind the all-time record held jointly by Jayna Hefford and Ouellette.
Montreal went 1-for-4 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the kill.
Maschmeyer earned a 20-save shut-out, while Chuli stopped 38 of 40 chances.
Les Canadiennes posted a 10-for-10 penalty kill against what was, prior to the series, a Vanke power play with over 40 percent efficiency.
"What we really looked at [in preparation] was special units," explained Clément-Heydra. "That was one of the things we really focused on and I think it paid off. Other than that, we didn't really focus on them. It's really about us and the way we were going to come out with the attitude we had."
Calgary Inferno vs. Toronto Furies
The Inferno outshot their hosts 36-19 on Saturday, but Toronto came away with the win.
Rhianna Kurio gave Calgary the lead midway through the first period. Jenna Dingeldein tied things up at the seven-minute mark of the second. Laura Dostaler restored the Inferno's lead not two minutes later, before Jess Vella evened the score on the power play.
Hayley Williams netted a power-play goal at 6:39 of the third to make it 3-2.
The Furies were 2-for-7 on the power play and perfect on two kills.
Amanda Makela stopped 34 of 36 pucks, while Lindsey Post allowed three goals on 19 shots. Delayne Brian got the start for Calgary on Sunday.
Emily Fulton opened the scoring for Toronto with a power-play marker at 3:21 of the first.
Carolyne Prevost made it 2-0 with a power-play goal of her own just 25 seconds into the middle frame. Dingeldein's goal at 5:50 prompted the Inferno to swap in Toni Ross for Brian. Vella scored on the power play to increase the Furies' lead to 4-0 before Megan Grenon put Calgary on the board at 17:09.
Sophie Shirley narrowed the gap to two with under five minutes remaining, but Hayley Williams sealed the 5-2 win with an empty-netter with 40 seconds on the clock.
The Furies were 3-for-4 on the power play and 2-for-2 on the kill.
Makela turned away 29 of 31 pucks for her third win in as many games. Brian allowed three goals on 10 shots, while Ross saved 14 of 15 in relief.
Calgary's next series is its China trip.
"That's going to be for sure our toughest stretch because we're going to miss some players," said head coach Tomas Pacina. "I think we're going to miss three or four key players that are not going to be able to make that trip for work reasons. So it's going to be a lot of expectation and a lot of pressure on our goaltending, our team game. Both Vanke and Red Star are fantastic teams.
"To play with the time difference, I think it's 15 hours, arriving Friday and playing Saturday-Sunday, we will be absolutely challenged," he added. "But you want that for your team. You really want to put them in positions where they are challenged and where the players who usually don't get as much ice time will get lots of ice time against the best players in the league, and see how we do. It's going to be a great evaluation for us and preparation for, hopefully, the playoffs."
Kunlun Red Star vs. Boston Blades
The Blades returned from a three-week break by hosting Kunlun. There remains one game left in the series, to be played Thursday, before Les Canadiennes visit on Saturday, February 3.
"We focus game-by-game so a lot of it's going to be focusing on the Kunlun team coming in, and then with Montreal in mind behind them," said head coach Kacy Ambroz of her team's strategy during that break. "Right when we're done with that we'll be definitely touching base on Montreal, because they come in that Saturday, and then also focusing a lot on us. You're going to play a lot of tough teams in this league, so [we're mostly] just focusing on the little things that we can control in practice."
Zoe Hickel opened the scoring on Saturday with the only goal of the first period, at 4:51.
Dru Burns tied things up early in the second, but Rachel Llanes quickly netted a power-play goal to restore Kunlun's lead, and Kelli Stack added another late in the frame to make it 3-1.
Taylor Wasylk narrowed it to 3-2 with a power-play marker at 18:25 of the third, but Alex Carpenter buried one in the empty net to seal the Red Star's win just 19 seconds later.
Kunlun was 1-for-3 on the power play while the Blades went 1-for-2.
Noora Räty stopped 17 of 19 shots and Lauren Dahm turned away 32 of 35 pucks.
On Sunday, Kunlun was credited with 67 shots and the Blades with 28. There are only 60 minutes in a hockey game; it is possible that the shot counter in Boston is overly generous.
Liu Zhixin got things started for the Red Star at 13:15.
Jessica Wong doubled the advantage just 32 seconds into the middle stanza, and Melanie Jue added a power-play marker at 8:38.
Shiann Darkangelo scored at 8:14 of the third, and Stack added two power play goals to close out the game.
Kunlun was 2-for-6 with the extra skater and perfect on four penalty kills.
Räty made 28 saves for the shut-out while Dahm was credited with 61 saves on 65 shots through 48:14 before being replaced by Amanda Carridi, who conceded goals on both shots faced in 11:46.
Coming Up Next
- Kunlun Red Star vs. Boston Blades -- February 1 at 7:40 PM Eastern at Larsen Skating Rink at Eruzione Center
- Calgary Inferno vs. Vanke Rays -- February 3 at 7:30 PM China Standard at Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center; February 4 at 2:30 PM China Standard at Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center
- Toronto Furies vs. Markham Thunder -- February 3 at 1:00 PM Eastern at Centennial Community Centre; February 4 at 12:30 PM Eastern at Thornhill Community Centre
- Les Canadiennes de Montréal vs. Boston Blades -- February 3 at 8:00 PM Eastern at Larsen Skating Rink at Eruzione Center; February at 1:00 PM Eastern at Larsen Skating Rink at Eruzione Center
- Calgary Inferno vs. Kunlun Red Star -- February 7 at 7:30 PM China Standard at Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center; February 9 at 7:30 PM China Standard at Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center
(Photo credit: Chris Tanouye/CWHL)