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 Markham Thunder won two of their three games against the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays, wrapping up the season series with a 3-2 edge. Meanwhile, Les Canadiennes de Montréal swept the Worcester Blades and the Calgary Inferno swept the Toronto Furies.
Around the League
- It was another week of major milestones: On Saturday, Erica Kromm played her 150th game and Rebecca Johnston scored her 100th point (then promptly surpassed that mark); Kacey Bellamy played her 100th CWHL game on Sunday.
- Brittany Howard, Catherine Daoust, and Emma Martin scored their first CWHL goals this weekend.
- The Toronto Furies announced that all of their remaining home games will be streamed live, in partnership with SportCanada.tv.
- Marie-Soleil Deschênes was named Goaltender of the Week.
Markham Thunder vs. Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays
This series began last Wednesday, with the Thunder's contingent of national team players meeting their teammates in China once the Four Nations Cup ended. Markham returned with five of six possible points, despite missing five key players: Nicole Brown, Liz Knox, Nicole Kosta, Jenna McParland, and Brooke Webster.
"We only get five games against them and going there we were split already, and I think they're a really good match-up for us," said Thunder netminder Erica Howe. "We pair well with them; it's going to come close between us at the end of the season. And getting points and China is huge. Last year not many teams were able to pick it up, so we knew going in there that they're a competitor. I think down the line it's going to come to that in playoffs, so we knew we had to kind of rally together, power through it, and come out with a couple points at least."
Their success on the trip was a big change from last season, when Markham came home empty-handed after four games. Howe says the players who'd already made the journey sat down with their teammates and gave them an idea of what to expect and how to prepare -- some even began adjusting themselves to China time before they left.
Rachel Llanes opened Wednesday's scoring for Shenzhen with a power-play goal at 12:34 of the first period. Taylor Woods -- wearing back-up goalie Elijah Milne-Price's rather large jersey -- then evened it up at 17:45.
Jessica Wong put the Rays back ahead at 12:16 of the second.
Midway through the third, Kristen Barbara tied it up again, and the teams went to overtime. Wong tallied her second of the night at 2:27 of the extra frame to give Shenzhen the win.
The Rays were 1-for-4 on the power play and 2-for-2 on the penalty kill.
Kimberly Newell made 17 saves on 19 shots, while Howe turned away 41 of 44.
Between four games and the need to adjust and recover, the Thunder didn't get a lot of time to explore on last year's trip. This year Howe says they made a point of seeing the surroundings.
"We came up with a full roster of activities we could do beforehand, and we really got to do it," she explained. "We went to Hong Kong for a day, we went to the oil painting village, we went to a botanical garden... it was awesome. Everyone was throwing out ideas and kind of everyone would jump on board and we'd all go, so it was super fun."
Howe highlights a pre-game visit to an oil painting village where local artists practice their craft in alleyways as a particular stand-out that left everyone excited to play. Some team members even got to (accidentally) show off their own artistic skills.
"We thought that they were going to paint [custom paintings] for us," she said with a laugh. "Then they kind of sat Kristen Richards down in the chair and gave her the brush, and we were like, 'Oh no, what's going on here?!' But actually, it turned out really well. They helped guide her. It's kind of interesting because with the language barrier, they couldn't talk to each other, but they were just working together. It was like there's a universal language to try and paint together, and the paintings turned out really well."
Markham's Jess Jones struck first on Friday, at 7:18 of the second period, and Jamie Lee Rattray doubled the advantage barely two minutes later.
Shenzhen began a third-period comeback effort when Llanes scored at the midway point, and Alex Carpenter added a 5-on-3 goal at 16:26 to force an extra period.
The Thunder came away with the win, with Jones scoring her second of the night at 3:07 of overtime.
Shenzhen was once again 1-for-4 on the power play and perfect on two penalty kills.
Howe saved 24 of 26 shots, while Noora Räty stopped 24 of 27.
"The schedule change was definitely noticeable," said Howe of the move from four games down to three, a response to one of the CWHLPA's main concerns and a key reason behind the contraction of the Vanke Rays. "Last year we landed on whatever day, and we played the next two days in a row. You're just exhausted. But this year we landed, we had two days off, we practiced and got adjusted a little bit, and then we played. It made a huge difference for rest and recovery, for sure."
Barbara got things started early on Saturday, with a goal just 21 seconds into the game.
Becca King doubled the lead midway through the second, but Emma Woods brought Shenzhen within one less than two minutes later. Victoria Bach then restored the two-goal gap with 13 seconds left in the frame.
The third period was scoreless, giving Markham a 3-1 win and the only regulation decision of the trip.
The Thunder were 2-for-2 on the penalty kill and didn't get any power-play opportunities.
Howe stopped 37 of 38 shots, while Räty made 20 saves on 23 chances.
Markham was outshot by a combined 108-69 margin throughout the series, but still managed to get the upper hand.
"I think this week was huge for our team because we were out-battled, we were tired, and we just came together as a group," said Howe. "We don't always get to team bond at home because everyone's got their own life, but on the road in China you can all come together and you can work hard. In between periods it's like, 'Guys, we're tired. But we've got to keep moving, we've got to play smart, and we've got to do it together. We'll come out of it on top.'"
Les Canadiennes de Montréal vs. Worcester Blades
Hilary Knight and Marie-Philip Poulin gave fans the show they've been waiting for on Saturday, with two goals apiece in a 5-0 Montreal victory.
With Sarah Lefort and Jill Saulnier both out of the line-up, Emma Martin slotted into her first CWHL contests.
Knight struck first at 4:11 of the first, and Poulin followed up at 14:29 with her first goal of the season.
Knight then scored the lone goal of the second period, at 16:46.
Poulin added to the advantage 3:07 into the third, and Ann-Sophie Bettez sealed the victory at 16:28.
Worcester was 3-for-3 on the penalty kill but goalless on two power plays.
Emerance Maschmeyer turned away 21 pucks for the shut-out, while Jetta Rackleff saved 44 of 49 shots in her season debut.
Poulin notched a casual six points on Sunday as Les Canadiennes cruised to a 9-0 win.
Mélodie Daoust opened the scoring 1:08 into the game, and Poulin doubled the advantage exactly four minutes later. Knight added a power-play tally at 14:49 to put Montreal up 3-0 after one.
Blades starting netminder Mariah Fujimagari was replaced by Rackleff to start the second, but the onslaught continued. Bettez, Taylor Willard, and Catherine Daoust all scored within a five-minute span before Martin made it 7-0 at 17:09.
Poulin was laid out behind the net in the opening minutes of the third period, prompting Mélodie Daoust to come to her captain's defence. A small melee ensued, with Daoust and Demi Crossman throwing fists and each being assessed a 10-minute misconduct, in addition to roughing minors. Courtney Turner incurred a body-checking minor on the play, giving Montreal the skater advantage.
The penalty parade continued throughout the frame, and Erin Ambrose capitalized with two power-play goals in under four minutes to round out the scoring.
Les Canadiennes were 3-for-5 on the power play and perfect on five kills.
Marie-Soleil Deschênes made her season debut, turning away 27 shots to earn the shut-out. Fujimagari stopped 20 of 23 chances in the first period, while Rackleff allowed six goals on 36 shots through 40 minutes in relief.
Calgary Inferno vs. Toronto Furies
Inferno starting netminder Alex Rigsby didn't travel to Toronto, so Annie Bélanger -- who appears to have secured the back-up position -- played both games.
Saturday's contest was a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair with 11 combined goals. Calgary may have a deeper roster on paper, but the Furies proved yet again that their speed gives them a chance to challenge any opponent.
Natalie Spooner opened the scoring at 12:25 of the first period, but Venla Hovi evened it up less than two minutes later, and Rebecca Johnston buried a pass from Rebecca Leslie to put the Inferno ahead at 17:59.
Shiann Darkangelo tied things up 2:12 into the second, tapping in the puck after a nice play by Brittany Howard. Blayre Turnbull put the Inferno back ahead at 8:10, and Brianna Decker added a power-play goal at 15:12 to make it 4-2 after two.
Turnbull added a power-play tally of her own early in the third period, prompting the Furies to replace Shea Tiley with Elaine Chuli, but Katelyn Gosling quickly added to the advantage at 5:11. Howard netted her first career goal 76 seconds later on the power play, shoving the puck over the line from flat on her back. Rebecca Leslie restored the four-goal lead at 8:14. Sarah Nurse scored on a beautiful shot with 24 seconds remaining, but it was too little, too late for Toronto.
Calgary was 2-for-3 with the extra skater and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill.
Bélanger made 19 saves on 22 shots. Tiley stopped 16 of 21 through 42:54, while Chuli allowed two goals on nine shots in 17:05 in relief.
Brianne Jenner put the Inferno ahead just 1:40 into Sunday's game, and doubled up with a power-play goal not three minutes after that.
Emily Fulton got Toronto on the board at 4:48 of the second, but Johnston netted the eventual game-winner 75 seconds later. Nurse brought the Furies within one with a power-play goal just past the midway point, but it proved to be the last of the afternoon.
Calgary was 1-for-5 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the kill.
Bélanger stopped 25 of 27 shots, while Chuli saved 29 of 32 chances.
Coming Up Next
- Toronto Furies vs. Markham Thunder -- November 24 at 7:30 PM Eastern at Thornhill Community Centre
- Les Canadiennes de Montréal vs. Calgary Inferno -- November 24 at 7:30 PM Mountain at Winsport Arena A (streamed); November 25 at 10:30 AM Mountain at Winsport Arena A
- Markham Thunder vs. Toronto Furies -- November 25 at 3:30 PM Eastern at Joshua Creek Arena (Oakville, Ontario) (streamed)
(Photo credit: Teri Di-Lauro/CWHL)
Filed under: cwhl; ice hockey; markham thunder; shenzhen krs vanke rays; les canadiennes de montreal; worcester blades; calgary inferno; Toronto Furies; erica howe
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