Thunder Make Noise To Start Season

Photos by Teri Di-Lauro

Game One

It was a busy weekend for the Markham Thunder who opened the 2018-2019 season against the Worcester Blades. Before the puck dropped, the 2018 Clarkson Cup team was honoured and the banner was raised to the rafters of the Thornhill Community Centre.

With 2018 Clarkson Cup Champions Devon Skeats, Jessica Hartwick, Candice Moxley and Jamie Miller, Mayor Frank Scarpitti, the Honourable Minister Mary Ng, MP for Markham-Thornhill, interim commissioner and Thunder alumna Jayna Hefford, former commissioner Brenda Andress, City Councillors Nirmala Armstrong and Alan Ho, title sponsor Flato Developments President Shakir Rehmatullah, and fans in the stands, the new season began. With the puck drop another milestone was reached; Dania Simmonds began her 149th consecutive regular season game, moving her past Kori Cheverie and taking sole possession of the CWHL’s Iron Woman title.

The Thunder peppered Blades’ goalie Mariah Fujimagari with shots in the first period, pressuring to be the first to get a goal. Five minutes into the period, Kristina Brown would head to the box for body checking giving Markham the first power play of the game. Less than a minute later, Jocelyne Larocque would thread the puck across the ice to Jamie Lee Rattray who then passed it over the blue line to Victoria Bach. Bach toe-dragged the puck around Megan Turner, took the puck on her backhand and sent it five-hole on Fujimagari, notching her first ever CWHL goal and the first goal of the season for Markham.

The Thunder would get a second advantage when Casey Stathopoulos sat for hooking. Nothing would materialize, and Kristen Barbara would take the first penalty of the game for Markham for hooking. Laura Stacey would end the period with a great chance that slipped just wide.

The second frame started with a flurry of action as Jess Jones, who was making her return to the Thunder, was called for slashing a few seconds in. With the penalty successfully killed off, Laura Fortino started the breakout giving the puck to Stacey. At the blue line, Stacey made the cross-ice pass to Jones who was slashed as we made her way to the net. She did not need the upcoming power play as she put the puck through the five-hole on her backhand, notching her first CWHL goal since her Angela James Bowl-winning campaign in 2016-17.

Larocque was next to the penalty box, called for body-checking. The penalty kill unit went back to work. Nicole Kosta got the puck to Fortino who passed it up to Stacey, and she took off like a rocket. Blowing past Kristina Brown, she backhanded the puck over the blocker scoring her first goal since the Clarkson Cup winner, and the first shorthanded marker of the year.

Lauren Dahm was then called on to go in net for Worcester, and her teammate Erin Kickham was sent off for delay of game after putting the puck over the glass. Dahm was sharp, making multiple saves on Jones in tight. Taylor Woods was taken down so Markham was back on the power play. The Blades killed it off, and the Thunder ended the period down a player as Brooke Webster sat for hooking.

Coming back from the second intermission, the Blades came on strong. Erica Howe held the fort in the opening minutes, and soon the play went back into the offensive zone for Markham. Woods banked it off the boards to pass the puck to Fortino. She took the shot from the blue line, and Ailish Forfar buried the rebound for her first CWHL goal!

On the next shift, Stathopoulos went back to the box for Worcester for high-sticking. Stacey received the puck and took it into the high slot, where she passed it back to Kosta standing along the goal line. She dished it over to Jones on the far side of the net and put it in from the same spot Forfar had just scored from.

It wouldn’t take long for the Thunder to return to the player advantage as Taryn Harris was sent off less than a minute after Jones’ second goal. They couldn’t get one past Dahm, and 5-on-5 continued until Woods was cited for body-checking. On the PK, Kosta and Brown skated into the Blades’ zone. Kosta took the shot which Dahm stopped with her pads, but the rebound came right out to Brown who sent it home for the sixth Thunder goal of the evening.

Larocque would take a holding call with four minutes left in the game, but Howe held on for the shutout.

Dania Simmonds announced her retirement in her post-game interview. Read more here.

Game Two

The afternoon began with a scary incident as a few players crashed along the boards and a referee was caught in the fray. She received medical attention, came off the ice with some assistance and sat out for the first period to get back in form. The first half of the opening frame was largely dominated by the Thunder. Near the halfway mark of the period Meaghan Spurling went off for roughing. Jess Jones got the puck in the slot from Stacey and Kosta and put it top shelf on Jessica Convery giving the Thunder a 1-0 lead.

It was then Kosta’s turn to go off, hooking was the call, but Knox and the penalty killers were up to the task. Markham ended the period back on the advantage as Taryn Harris was also called for hooking.

Five minutes into the second period, Alexis Woloschuk was sent to the box for tripping. After another successful kill, Jenna McParland and Stacey combined to set up Ella Matteucci who blasted the puck from the blue line scoring her first goal in the CWHL. The Thunder were awarded another power play as Spurling sat for hooking. Larocque got the puck down to Bach who slid it over to Rattray giving a 3-0 lead for the home team. Dahm was once again sent in to relieve the starting goalie. As the period wound down, Stathopoulos got the puck past Knox, assisted by Megan Meyers and Kristina Brown.

The third period saw Markham take three penalties: Jones for body-checking, Rattray for a high stick and Forfar for tripping. Luckily Knox held the fort, and during the final penalty kill, Stacey sprung Bach for the final goal of the game. The Thunder took it 4-1.

Highlights from Game One: