Feature photo by Teri Di-Lauro
The Markham Thunder will be battling les Canadiennes de Montréal in a best of three playoff series for a berth in the Clarkson Cup Final. This will be the third season in a row that the two teams will be meeting in the playoffs.
The teams met six times during the regular season, with Montréal winning four contests to Markhams two. It was another gruelling year between these two teams who have cultivated quite the rivalry over the past few seasons. After two big losses when the teams met in the second weekend of this season, the Thunder bounced back with three of the four remaining games being one goal games – winning two of them in regulation.
Erica Howe played in all six games, starting in five. She was a huge story for Markham facing a total of 216 shots from Montréal, with a .912 SV%. If you remove the first series, Howe held a .951 SV% against them in the 2019 calendar year. Her best games of the series came in the teams’ last tilts, only allowing four goals on 73 shots. She could have easily been named the first star of both games in the series (she earned third star honours in the first game of this series), and she is certainly going to be called upon by head coach Jim Jackson to guard the net in this playoff series.
With Jackson also manipulating his lines throughout the season, Jamie Lee Rattray and Laura Stacey centred by Victoria Bach, has ended up as the top line for the Thunder. They have been the top producers for the team, and have been the biggest offensive forces against les Canadiennes as well. The trio has amassed 14 points against Montréal (Bach with 5 pts [4 G, 1 A], Rattray with 5 pts [2 G, 3 A], Stacey with 4 pts [2 G, 2 A]), so fans can expect them to continue to find scoring chances and put the puck in net.
On the backend, look for the D pairing for Laura Fortino and Megan Bozek to continue to eat up minutes. The duo has a combined 340:20 TOI against Montréal, and have been deployed in all situations. Bozek and Fortino are also responsible for the most shots generated from the blue line to les Canadiennes goaltenders Emerance Maschmeyer and Geneviève Lacasse, with 33 and 24 shots respectfully. Markham will be welcoming back captain Jocelyne Larocque to the defence core after she missed the last series. Expect her to guard the blueline with ferociousness, and to help the Thunder break out of their zone.
The Thunder will try to improve their special teams units as Montréal capitalized four more times than Markham on the power play, and notched one shorthanded goal. They’ll also look to put more shots on net, after being outshot 216 to 125 in the regular season series.