All photos by Teri Di-Lauro
The Thunder swept defending Clarkson Cup Champions, les Canadiennes de Montreal, and were the first to punch their ticket to this season’s Final.
Erica Howe and Emerance Maschmeyer began their goalie duel, with the Montreal netminder being test early. The Thunder came out fast, hungry to make their impression and set the pace. Megan Bozek, Taylor Woods, Laura Stacey, Nicole Kosta, and Jamie Lee Rattray all had good scoring chances early in the period. Howe stood tall as les Canadiennes pushed back, helping to get the puck back down the ice. Laurianne Rougeau would take an interference penalty on Stacey, giving Markham the first advantage of the game. The first power play unit had great chances, but could not hit the back of the net. Howe made her first stop against Hilary Knight as Rougeau stepped back on the ice. A few minutes later, Dania Simmonds took and interference penalty of her own. Howe contended with lots of traffic in front of her crease, but was able to make a string of outstanding saves, killing the penalty off. The goalies once again traded saves, Maschmeyer with the glove on Stacey and Laura McIntosh, and Howe with a poke check on Knight. Devon Skeats was cited for tripping with less than five seconds left in the period, but it would end with no score.
The second started with the Thunder on the penalty kill, and Howe making a brilliant toe save and getting some help from the post before Skeats returned to the ice. Shortly after, and with much discussion, Skeats headed back to the box for delay of game. Markham killed that penalty off too. Play continued to move north-south, with Jenna McParland making a block, then taking the puck into Montreal’s zone, dangling, but just missing the net with her shot. The Thunder had some more help from the post in their own zone, which sent the puck to McIntosh, who connected with Kosta to break the stalemate at give Markham the lead. As the period wound down, Howe made another stunning glove save on Knight, keeping the lead intact going into the third frame.
The period started with both teams trading chances. Howe made a good initial save on Marion Allemoz, but the rebound came out to Emmanuelle Blais who slid it in to tie the game. The Thunder turned up the heat, with Brown and Bozek shots going just wide, then Rattray was robbed by the blocker of Maschmeyer. Les Canadiennes started to buzz in the Thunder zone, but Howe was there at every turn. Kosta took a tripping penalty, but once again it was killed off as Howe made a pad save, followed by another deep in her net. This game would need extra time.
Overtime started with a Bozek blast that was deflected up into the netting, then an elbowing call against Kristen Richards, sending Markham to the penalty kill. The Thunder were aggressive, with Woods streaking down the ice on a break, but the puck could not get to its intended target. Rattray corralled the puck in the defensive zone seconds later and went on a break of her own. This time there was no stopping the puck as she shovelled it through Maschmeyer to take game one!
Howe and Maschmeyer got the calls in net again for this pivotal game. Rattray went on a tear early, getting a good chance at the side of the net, and put in her own rebound. Unfortunately, she had shoved the puck in with her glove and the goal was disallowed. Play moved quickly, with both goalies standing tall. Skeats was called for tripping, and Montreal was able to capitalize as the puck hit the post then bounced off of Howe’s back into the net. Seconds later, Nicole Brown connected with McParland to tie the game!
— Hannah Bevis (@Hannah_Bevis1) March 18, 2018
Howe made a stunning glove save on les Canadiennes off a faceoff, before Skeats was headed back to the box after being cited for holding. Richards and Rattray went streaking, but Rattray just missed sending the puck into the open side. Skeats returned, and then Markham received their first chance on the advantage as Noemie Marin sat for tripping at the end of the period.
With almost the full power play left, the Thunder went hard to the Montreal net. Nothing got past Maschmeyer though, and les Canadiennes seized the opportunity to set up in the Markham zone. Howe was outstanding, keeping the game tied as Montreal pressured with many quick shots. Kim Deschenes hooked Stacey, and Howe flashed the leather on A short handed Ann-Sophie Bettez chance. Jocelyne Larocque was then off to the box for tripping, and 4-on-4 action commenced. Deschenes returned, but Maschmeyer was called for interference, and she headed back to the box to serve her teammate’s penalty. Stacey went in on les Canadiennes’ net, but the puck rolled off her stick. Karell Emard and McIntosh received coincidental roughing minors, sending the teams back to 4-on-4 play. Lindsay Grigg came up with a big block, the teams returned to even strength, and the period ended with the tie intact.
To start the third frame, Rattray rang a shot off the post, then the Thunder returned to the power play as Melanie Desrochers sat for tripping. Maschmeyer had a glove save on another Bozek blast from the point, then Grigg made a solid defensive play keeping Bettez to the outside on another short handed chance for her. Back even, both teams turned up the heat, and Howe and Maschmeyer continued to show why they are both nominated for Goalie of the Year. Deschenes found herself in the box again, this time for body checking. The first power play unit set up, and Kosta connected with McParland to give the Thunder the go-ahead goal!
— Women’s Sports Highlights (@WSportHilites) March 18, 2018
A few minutes later, McParland completed her hat trick.
— Hannah Bevis (@Hannah_Bevis1) March 18, 2018
Play wound down, and Montreal pulled their goalie for the extra attacker. They could not get the puck behind Howe, and Rattray skated the puck to the open net with a Canadienne hanging off her back to seal the game for Markham.
🚨🚨🚨🚨 RATTRAY WITH THE EMPTY NETTER pic.twitter.com/qwGGIoDebQ
— Markham Thunder HC (@ThunderCWHL) March 18, 2018
With the sweep, the Markham Thunder were the first team to the Clarkson Cup Final.