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 Calgary Inferno further cemented their spot at the stop of the standings with a sweep over the Markham Thunder this weekend, while the Toronto Furies came out on top in two challenging games against the Worcester Blades. Les Canadiennes de Montréal began their three-game series against the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays, which will be covered in next week's wrap.
Around the League
- The Calgary Inferno and head coach Shannon Miller parted ways; the team's assistants Mandi Duhamel, Ryan Hilderman, and Becky McGee remain with the team and are filling in in the interim.
- The league revealed the full roster for the All-Star Game; fans can vote for the two captains until January 4.
- Morgan Turner, Shannon Stewart, Demi Crossman, and Megan Quinn scored their first CWHL goals.
- Lauren Dahm was named Goalie of the Week.
- The Calgary Inferno are holding an outreach game in Red Deer, Alberta, on Saturday, as part of Hockey Alberta's Female Hockey Day celebrations.
Worcester Blades vs. Toronto Furies
The Blades struck first on Saturday when Morgan Turner scored her first CWHL goal, 5:46 into the game. Shannon Stewart scored her own first goal to even things up at 9:04, and Brittany Howard put the Furies ahead to round out the period.
Sarah Nurse had the lone goal of the second period, at 16:31. Natalie Spooner increased the Furies' advantage at 7:53 of the third, and Nurse netted her second of the night on the power play at 16:16 for a 5-1 final score.
Toronto made good on its only power play and was perfect through two penalty kills.
Shea Tiley saved 18 of 19 shots, while Jetta Rackleff turned away 46 of 51.
Julie Allen opened Sunday's scoring at 14:24 of the first, but Turner tied it up with a power-play marker at 16:35.
Spooner then put the Furies up at 16:24 of the second. Demi Crossman responded with her first career goal at 19:07, but Spooner replied just 35 seconds later to make it 3-2 after two.
Megan Quinn scored the insurance marker midway through the third to earn her first CWHL goal, as well, and secure a 4-2 win.
The Furies were 0-for-2 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill.
Elaine Chuli stopped 14 of 16 shots, while Lauren Dahm saved 46 of 50.
Calgary Inferno vs. Markham Thunder
After splitting a pair of games against the Thunder last weekend, the Inferno traveled to Markham for a rematch.
The road trip followed an eventful week in Calgary, as the team announced that Shannon Miller would no longer be serving as head coach. In her absence, assistants Mandi Duhamel and Ryan Hilderman led the team last weekend. Assistant coach Becky McGee also remains with the group but was not available to travel.
"The theme of the weekend for us was making strong plays versus weak plays," said Duhamel, who joined the coaching staff in late October. "Everything we looked at there was whether it was passes, shots on net, battles in the corners, we wanted to be in a position of strength. So instead of trying to be fancy or keeping things simple, just make the strong play that will get us there."
Jess Jones opened Saturday's scoring with a power-play marker just 1:45 into the game after Brianne Jenner was sent off for an early cross-check. Jenner more than redeemed herself within the period, tying things up five minutes later and adding another goal at 16:41 to put Calgary ahead.
After a scoreless second period in which the Inferno outshot Markham 16-6, Zoe Hickel netted the lone goal of the third at 15:15 for a 3-1 win.
Calgary was 0-for-3 on the power play and killed off three of four penalties.
Alex Rigsby turned away 22 of 23 shots, while Erica Howe saved 33 of 36.
"We have players from all over the world, having Canada, Finland, and the U.S. represented, and Japan as well," noted Duhamel, attributing the team's success to the collection of strong women in and around the group, both on and off the ice. "It's a credit to the girls for bringing everybody together and being on the same page. There's an opportunity there to bring a lot of different formats as to how they play the game at home, and kind of not be able to buy in. But everybody has stuck to the identity of the team -- that we're really aggressive team with a lot of high skill -- and we work to get as many people as we can in the line-up contributing."
The Thunder once again opened the scoring on Sunday, with Jenna McParland burying a pass from Laura Fortino at 3:31 of the first, but Rebecca Leslie evened the mark at 8:24. Victoria Bach put Markham back on top at 18:26 before Rebecca Johnston made it 2-2 just 47 seconds later.
Calgary broke through in the second with a quick goal from Brianna Decker, followed by Leslie's second of the afternoon and another by Jenner, to make it 5-2 after two.
Starting netminder Liz Knox was replaced by Erica Howe to start the third, but it didn't slow Calgary down. Katelyn Gosling and Decker both tallied in the third, giving the Inferno a commanding 7-2 victory.
"We will admit to having two goals first against us in each of those games -- not your ideal way to start," acknowledged Duhamel. "But I credit the girls for just sticking to the game plan throughout. We get in there, it's a new rink; it's a hard place to play in, going to a smaller rink and being on the road. So we did have a slower start than we wanted, but we really picked it up and kind of figured out the momentum of the game and the line changes we were going for. A lot of the girls got their energy, stuck together, and stuck to the game plan. We were able to, on both days, kind of figure it out and then really bring our strengths to the table."
Calgary was 0-for-1 on the power play but perfect on three penalty kills.
Rigsby made 31 saves on 33 shots. Knox stopped 14 of 19 through 40 minutes, while Howe turned away nine of 11 in the third.
Heading into the final games of 2018, Duhamel said the focus will be on shoring up the defence and preparing for Toronto's speed.
"But also making sure that we know exactly who we are, and we're not adjusting for anybody. We come with the game plan of the Inferno being a very highly skilled, aggressive team, and we're going to keep continuing to be that as long as we can."
Coming Up Next
- Les Canadiennes de Montréal vs. Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays -- December 14 at 7:30 PM China Standard at Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center (streamed); December 15 at 2:30 PM China Standard at Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center.
- Worcester Blades vs. Markham Thunder -- December 15 at 7:30 PM Mountain at Thornhill Community Centre (streamed); December 16 at 12:30 PM Mountain at Thornhill Community Centre (streamed).
- Toronto Furies vs. Calgary Inferno -- December 15 at 7:00 PM Mountain at Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre (Red Deer, Alberta); December 16 at 10:30 AM Mountain at Winsport B Joan Snyder.
(Photo credit: Dave Holland/CWHL)
Filed under: cwhl; worcester blades; Toronto Furies; calgary inferno; markham thunder; mandi duhamel; ice hockey
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