Thunder Seal the Deal, Clinch Spot in Playoffs

Feature photo by Teri Di-Lauro

The series was intense, with both games being settled by one goal and going right to the buzzer. Erica Howe was spectacular in the series, along with Laura Stacey who notched 4 points (1 G, 3 A) on the weekend.

Game One

Markham was participating in their first Match en Rose (Pink the Rink) in Montreal. The charity game has become a signature of les Canadiennes, having raised over $100,000 dollars in the last eight editions of the event. Howe and Emerance Maschmeyer would face off in net, and both kept the opening frame tight. Both teams exchanged chances, but the period would end without a single goal, thanks to great saves like the one below!

Early in the second, Howe got some help from the post and then Stacey took the puck from the blue line to the net. Her shot was turned aside by Maschmeyer, but Victoria Bach was there for the rebound, potting her 19th goal of the season.

The Thunder duo followed it up with another great scoring chance, and Markham found themselves on the advantage when Melanie Desrochers sat for interference. Laura Fortino came up with a save that absolutely robbed Marie-Philip Poulin of a short handed goal.

Gina Repaci found herself headed to the box for tripping - the penalty was killed - then Kristen Barbara sat for roughing a few minutes later, and Montreal tied it up off the stick of Melodie Daoust assisted by Poulin and Ann-Sophie Bettez. The Thunder went on the power play after a tripping call against Marie-Joelle Allard, but they were not able to have the full two minutes as Jamie Lee Rattray was cited for unsportswomenlike conduct. Even though Markham had some more quality scoring chances, Jill Saulnier would give les Canadiennes the 2-1 lead with 30 seconds remaining in the period with help from Poulin and Bettez.

Markham opened the third with Bach sailing the puck just over the net, and a string of great saves from Howe. Ella Matteucci was called for tripping seven minutes in, and then Megan Bozek and Saulnier would receive coincidental roughing minors after a heated moment to the side of the Thunder net. The visitors continued to press, but time would run out and Montreal took the game.

Game Two

With the Thunder still hunting for at least a point in order to clinch a spot in the playoffs, they came out strong on Sunday. This time Howe would see Genevieve Lacasse at the opposite end of the ice, and her teammates Stacey, Laura Fortino, and Jenna McParland would find there way down there to put some pucks on net early. Rattray, Stacey and Kristen Richards lead some rushes, then Jess Jones had the puck gloved after a 3-on-2 chance. Howe came up big with a point-blank save on Poulin, before working hard on the penalty kill with Stacey and Kelly Gribbons as Barbara was cited for roughing. The first period would end scoreless once again, but Markham was awarded a power play right at the buzzer.

With Lauriane Rougeau in the box for interference, the Thunder pressured Lacasse. Less than a minute after returning to even strength play, McParland had the puck behind the goal line, tried to send it into the slot but it was picked up by a Canadienne. They fumbled the puck as the cut across the crease, and Jones was there to send it into the net, opening the scoring.

Howe came up big after facing a scramble around her crease, then Nicole Kosta took the puck the other way and rang it off the post. The deflection was so hard the puck flew up and hit a beam in the ceiling! A few minutes later, Stacey took the puck into the offensive zone and drove hard to the net. Her initial shot was turned aside by Lacasse, but Rattray buried the rebound, giving the Thunder a 2-0 lead into the second intermission.

Bach opened the final frame with a scoring chance that was blockered away, then Howe flashed the leather on Catherine Daoust. Matteucci followed it up by blocking a shot from M. Daoust, and Howe made back to back saves on her and Saulnier. On a rush into the O-zone, Fortino dropped the puck for Stacey. She skated to the top of the circle where she shot the puck and beat Lacasse just below the glove.

Les Canadiennes would not quit, and the scored two quick goals from Saulnier assisted by Karell Emard and Hilary Knight, and Bettez helped by Sarah Lefort and Desrochers. It was a tense 10 minutes after that as Markham called for their timeout to regroup. Montreal pressured to tie the game, putting out the extra attacker after using their own timeout with 1:20 left in the game. Howe stood tall, and the Thunder took 2 points, clinching the third spot in the playoffs. The opponent? Montreal.