Kirsten Whelan

CWHL Weekend Wrap

This week Les Canadiennes de Montréal took three of four possible points in a split with the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays, while the Toronto Furies once again upset the Calgary Inferno on the road to split their series.

Around the League

  • Jetta Rackleff was named Goalie of the Week for January 5-6.
  • Toronto Furies head coach Courtney Kessel and Calgary Inferno centre Brianna Decker remained absent this weekend as Kessel helped coach Team Canada to gold over Decker and Team USA at the U18 Women's World Championship in Obihiro, Japan.
  • CWHL alumnae Cheryl Pounder and Charline Labonté, two-time Olympian speedskater Anastasia Buscis, and comedian Gerry Dee were added as coaches for the All-Star Game, which takes place on January 20th at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
  • The league also announced that Leafs alum Doug Gilmour, who allegedly sexually assaulted a teenaged babysitter in the late 1980s, will drop the puck for the ceremonial faceoff.
  • The Calgary Inferno's game-worn Start the Spark jerseys are currently up for auction, with a portion of proceeds supporting the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre.

Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays vs. Les Canadiennes de Montréal

Noora Räty made 25 saves and stopped three of four shoot-out attempts as Shenzhen defeated Les Canadiennes 4-3 on Saturday.

Sarah Lefort opened the scoring for Montreal just 1:30 in after rushing up the left wing, on a shot that appeared to deflect in off a Shenzhen defender.

Emma Woods tied it up on the power play with just over a minute left in the second, beating Emerance Maschmeyer high glove-side from the top of the circle.

"During the intermission we talked about a few moments that we were second on the puck, especially in our D-zone when we were supposed to get out and then we lost the puck at the blue line," explained associate head coach Danièle Sauvageau. "Those are the little things that could change the result of a game. So it was really a matter of making sure that those little details were made, and to bring our speed to the next level -- not only our skating, but moving the puck."

It seemed like a goalie showcase until the final six minutes of regulation, when both teams alternated goals with two apiece.

Katia Clément-Heydra first put Montreal ahead with a touch on a centering pass from Hilary Knight at 14:45.

"Honestly, all I was doing was driving the net -- I don't even know how it went in, I was just going," she said. "I feel like that's one thing that we had trouble doing all game is getting net drives, so I told myself, I don't care, sacrifice, go to the net, it doesn't matter."

Madison Woo evened it up just 31 seconds after that, on an equally bizarre bounce on the other side. Poulin responded with a beautiful shot at 17:07, but Alex Carpenter forced overtime with 34 seconds left in the period.

After five minutes of 4-on-4 solved nothing, the teams went to a shoot-out, after generating just three shots between them in OT.

Knight shot first for Montreal, flipping the puck over Räty's right pad. After the next four shooters missed, Carpenter deked Maschmeyer and scored on the open net to force extra shooters and Hanna Bunton scored the winner for Shenzhen.

All-star Rays forward Rachel Llanes, who had been making a gradual return from injury over the past few games, left the match early, and teammate Zhao Qinan suffered a lower-body injury in the match. Neither player was in the lineup on Sunday.

Shenzhen was 1-for-3 on the power play and perfect on three kills.

"They're a lot more aggressive on the penalty kill than what we're used to, but I think their biggest strength is in goal," said Clément-Heydra. "Räty gets in your head -- you think you have space to shoot, then she moves in and makes herself bigger."

Maschmeyer stopped 19 of 22 shots in open play.

Geneviève Lacasse earned a 19-save shut-out on Sunday in her Montreal debut, as Les Canadiennes topped Shenzhen, 4-0.

"She's a huge part of this team, she's a great leader, she's someone that's vocal, that's confident, that brings a lot of energy around her," said associate head coach Caroline Ouellette of the netminder, who sat out the first half of the season with injury. "She's worked really hard to get back in the game, and to see her do very well and get a shut-out, I think it's going to be huge for her confidence."

The Rays thought they'd scored off a shot by Yu Baiwei about four minutes into the game, but the net was off its moorings (in what was a theme of the afternoon) and after much insistence from Lacasse, the goal was eventually called back. Poulin then collected a rebound and scored right-side just before the halfway point to put Les Canadiennes ahead after one.

Knight doubled the lead with a hard shot from the right circle at 7:57 for the only goal of the second. Ann-Sophie Bettez was assessed a minor penalty and 10-minute misconduct at 14:52 after she and a Rays player exchanged punches in a game that became increasingly physical.

Jill Saulnier scored from the slot at 6:55 of the third, and Olivia Atkinson rounded out the contest at 9:35 when she stole the puck from Räty behind the goal and wrapped it into the wide-open net.

The end of the third was particularly chippy, with a number of questionable hits and curious non-calls.

"We had such a good game, and the last thing we need is to have some tough call or something where we lose somebody for another game," explained defender Erin Ambrose of the importance of keeping emotions in check. "It's tough sometimes to just kind of swallow your pride and take the punch or whatever it may be, but sometimes you've got to do that."

Montreal was 0-for-2 on the power play and perfect through three kills.

Räty allowed four goals on 37 shots.

Toronto Furies vs. Calgary Inferno

Brianne Jenner had two assists as the Inferno defeated Toronto 4-1 in Saturday's Start the Spark game. It also marked Furies defender Jordan Hampton's return following a broken wrist sustained in the second week of the season.

Jenner opened the scoring 13:58 into the match. Despite spending six minutes on the power play, the Furies managed only four shots during the first period.

Kelty Apperson doubled the advantage midway through the second, and Kacey Bellamy added a power-play marker with 50 seconds remaining in the frame, in which Calgary outshot its guests 22-6.

The Inferno thought they'd added another early in the third, but it was called off for a high stick. Katelyn Gosling then made it 4-0 at 15:35, before Renata Fast got Toronto on the board with under three minutes left in the game.

The Inferno were 1-for-2 with the extra skater and killed off all four penalties taken.

Annie Bélanger made 19 saves on 20 shots, while Shea Tiley stopped an impressive 50 of 54 in a losing effort.

Elaine Chuli posted a 29-save shut-out on Sunday as the Furies upset Calgary for the second time this season, 3-0. The Inferno dressed Nicole Paniccia as back-up in the absence of Bélanger and Alex Rigsby.

After a goalless first period, Fast opened the mark just past the halfway point of the second.

Shannon Stewart made it 2-0 just 14 seconds into the third, set up by Natalie Spooner. Spooner followed with a goal of her own at 16:08 to round out the scoring.

Both teams were perfect on the penalty kill, with Toronto neutralizing three and Calgary two.

Lindsey Post stopped 23 of 26 shots in her first start of the season.

Coming Up Next

  • CWHL All-Star Game -- January 20 at 1:30 PM Eastern at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto (televised on Sportsnet).

(Photo credit: Dave Holland/CWHL)

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