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 Toronto Furies earned four points against the Markham Thunder this week to keep their playoff hopes alive, while Les Canadiennes grabbed a hard-fought sweep over the Worcester Blades.
The playoff race is down to the wire, with Toronto, Markham, and the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays all vying for the final two spots. The Thunder can secure their berth with a single point in their next three games and the Rays can do so with two, while Toronto would need to both win out and have one of either Markham or Shenzhen lose all remaining games; Markham's losses and at least two of Shenzhen's three would have to be in regulation. (At the time of this post, Shenzhen has just lost in regulation to the Inferno.)
Around the League
- Les Canadiennes are hosting their annual Pink in the Rink game on Saturday, February 23 in the amphitheatre at Place Bell, in a doubleheader with the Laval Rocket.
- Jess Jones earned her 100th CWHL point with a goal on Saturday.
- Retired Montreal forward Emmanuelle Blais, who was recalled due to a combination of injuries and national team absences, earned three assists on Saturday to gain sole possession of 10th place in the CWHL all-time scoring records.
Markham Thunder vs. Toronto Furies
With six players away for the Canada-USA Rivalry Series and Jenna McParland missing game one, the Markham Thunder dressed only 15 skaters for Saturday's contest and 16 for the rematch. Alumnae Ellie Seedhouse and Danielle Skirrow were called up as replacements on Saturday; Seedhouse and Laura McIntosh suited up on Sunday. Toronto was missing three national team players and had semi-regulars Jenna Dingeldein, Sydney Kidd, and Emma Pearson fill in.
Shiann Darkangelo had a goal, an assist, and the shoot-out winner as the Furies defeated Markham on Saturday to keep their playoff hopes alive. Toronto needed to win all five of its final games, and following this weekend is now 2/5 of the way there.
"We always want to win, but when the season's on the line, I think it just brings another level out," said goaltender Elaine Chuli. "Whether that's a good thing or bad I don't know, but I think just when you come with a do-or-die mentality... we definitely played like that this weekend and showed up when we had to."
Jess Jones opened the scoring for the Thunder at 3:15 of the second period, deflecting a shot from Gina Repaci. Carolyne Prévost evened the mark off a play by Shannon Stewart at 14:20, and Darkangelo tapped the puck in shorthanded to put the Furies up 2-1 with 38 seconds left in the frame.
Kristen Richards tied things up five minutes into the third period and the teams ultimately went to overtime and then a shoot-out, where Darkangelo was the only shooter of five to beat either goalie.
Toronto was 0-for-4 on the power play but managed to capitalize on its lone penalty.
Shea Tiley made 22 saves on 24 shots plus all three shoot-out attempts, while Erica Howe stopped 22 of 24 and one of two shoot-out tries.
Chuli stopped 28 of 29 chances on Sunday as the Furies claimed a 3-1 win in Markham's Do it for Daron game.
"When I was given the nod for Sunday, I knew one poor goal could end our season," she acknowledged. "And that's good. That's why we play and that's why I play. I love the pressure, and it's not something that bothers me."
Carlee Campbell scored the contest's first goal with a hard point shot on a 5-on-3 at 5:05.
Stewart doubled the advantage just past the midway point of the second, but McParland brought Markham within one at 17:24.
The Thunder eventually pulled Liz Knox for the extra attacker and after a couple missed attempts, Prévost shot the puck into the empty net to seal Toronto's win.
The Furies were 1-for-5 on the power play and perfect through three penalty kills.
Knox made 26 saves on 28 shots.
Chuli's had a much stronger second half of the season, and attributes it to getting adjusted to balancing hockey with a full-time career -- something she didn't have to worry about as a sports ambassador in China last season -- as well as a change of mindset.
"You've just got to show up when you're called upon," she offered. "That's something I've been really focused on in the second half, because the first half didn't quite go how I wanted, and it felt like things were just kind of going rough."
Toronto has three games remaining, all at home, and needs the full six points to advance.
"It's just one period at a time," explained Chuli of their approach. "As soon as you look too far ahead, it can be quite overwhelming. So take the practice this week, work on our special teams because that's always key, and then working on being ready right from puck drop, because we can't afford to have a slow start and get behind early."
Les Canadiennes de Montréal vs. Worcester Blades
With seven players out of the line-up for the Rivalry Series and Olivia Atkinson out with injury, Montreal called up Kayla Tutino, Emmanuelle Blais, and fourth goaltender Maude Nicol. Mélodie Daoust also made her return from a knee injury sustained in November.
Daoust tallied two goals and an assist in her first game back and Karell Emard recorded a four-point night on Saturday as Les Canadiennes toppled the Blades, 7-1.
Catherine Daoust took only 21 seconds to net the first goal of the night, on the first shot of the match. Kaitlin Spurling evened things up at 16:40, but Emard restored Montreal's lead 58 seconds later and Melanie Desrochers followed it up 23 seconds after that.
Mariah Fujimagari replaced Lauren Dahm to start the middle frame. Tutino made it 4-1 halfway through, and Katia Clément-Heydra added another less than three minutes afterwards.
Mélodie Daoust expanded the lead 1:35 into the third, then rounded out the scoring with a power-play marker at 7:27.
Les Canadiennes were 1-for-2 with the extra skater and killed off their only penalty.
Marie-Soleil Deschênes stopped 17 of 18 shots faced. Dahm turned away 13 of 16 through 20 minutes, while Fujimagari saved 25 of 29 in relief.
Clément-Heydra had two goals and an assist and seven Blades players made it onto the scoresheet as Montreal edged Worcester 4-3 on Sunday.
Megan Myers opened the scoring midway through the first, giving the Blades a 1-0 lead after one.
Kaitlin Spurling, assisted by sister Meaghan Spurling, made it 2-0 just 2:37 into the second. The period seemed poised to end that way until Sarah Lefort buried a power-play goal for Montreal at 17:19, and Clément-Heydra tied it up just 18 seconds later. Clément-Heydra added another 83 seconds after that to put Les Canadiennes ahead.
Lauriane Rougeau scored on the power play at 8:58 to make it 4-2. Morgan Turner brought Worcester back within one at 15:39, but that proved to be the last goal of the day.
Montreal was 2-for-6 on the power play and neutralized six infractions.
Deschênes turned away 23 of 26 shots, while Dahm stopped 39 of 43.
Coming Up Next
- Calgary Inferno vs. Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays -- February 20 at 7:30 PM China Standard at Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center (streamed) (Calgary wins 2-1); February 22 at 7:30 PM China Standard at Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center (streamed); February 23 at 2:30 PM China Standard at Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center (streamed)
- Worcester Blades vs. Toronto Furies -- February 23 at 6:00 PM Eastern at MasterCard Center - Rink 1 (streamed); February 24 at 1:00 PM Eastern at MasterCard Center - Rink 1 (streamed)
- Markham Thunder vs. Les Canadiennes de Montréal -- February 23 at 6:30 PM Eastern at Place Bell (streamed); February 24 at 1:00 PM Eastern at Place Bell
- Markham Thunder vs. Toronto Furies -- February 26 at 7:45 PM Eastern at MasterCard Center - Rink 1 (streamed)
(Photo credit: Chris Tanouye/CWHL)
Filed under: cwhl; markham thunder; Toronto Furies; les canadiennes de montreal; worcester blades; elaine chuli; ice hockey
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