Thunder Storm Through China, Take 5 of 6 Points

Photos by Teri Di-Lauro

The Thunder headed to China on November 10th, making the long journey to Hong Kong airport and over to Shenzhen. Liz Knox, Nicole Kosta, Nicole Brown, Brooke Webster and Jenna McParland would not make the trip. This meant the Thunder were rolling three lines and received extra offensive help from the defence.

Game One

Erica Howe would get the start for the Thunder, and this would be the first time Markham would face rookie Kimberly Newell in net. The Thunder would start a little weary – the puck went past Howe, but the goal was disallowed as the net had come loose. Markham’s passing was not crisp, leading to a bunch of giveaways, but Howe was up to the task. Shortly before the halfway point of the period, Michelle Ng would head to the box for hooking, giving the visiting team its first advantage of the game. The best chance came when Laura Stacey made a hard angle shot, but Newell made the save. Even-strength was short lived as Jess Jones sat for tripping. Unfortunately for the Thunder, Rachel Llanes scored on a five-hole shot, giving the Rays the lead. Hanna Bunton would try to widen that lead with many great chances, but Howe made save after save on her. Markham would have some good looks of their own from Jamie Lee Rattray and Jocelyne Larocque, but it was Taylor Woods who would break around defender Emma Woods and chip the puck past Newell’s blocker to tie the game, assisted by Ella Matteucci and Becca King. As the whistle blew to mark the end of the opening frame, Larocque and Stephanie Anderson threw some shots at each other, resulting in them beginning the second in the box.

The start of the second period was delayed as the penalties to Larocque and Anderson were worked out – Larocque would receive the extra roughing call. Markham would receive a power play after Cayley Mercer went off for tripping. The best chance on the advantage came when Victoria Bach wired a hard shot off the post. Howe continued her hot streak against Bunton, as she made another couple of amazing saves against the Rays’ forward. Gina Repaci hit another post for the Thunder, before Jessica Wong tipped the puck past Howe to give the Rays the 2-1 lead. The period ended with King in the box for roughing.

Play in the third period began with a lot of back and forth. Jamie Lee Rattray narrowly missed rebound off of Newell’s pads, and Howe yet again had Bunton’s number. Ailish Forfar took the puck from the goal line in the corner and put the puck on net. It hit off of Laura Stacey’s skate, and Kristen Barbara tipped the puck in to tie the game halfway through the frame. Markham’s penalty killers were successful when Forfar went to the box for tripping, and more chances came for both teams, but Howe and Räty were up to the task. The game went into extra time, and at the halfway mark, Alex Carpenter connected with Jessica Wong to win the game for the Rays.

Game Two

Howe and Noora Räty faced off in net for the second game of the series. The Thunder were able to get some great chances in the opening minutes of the game. Rattray and Jones had a break down the ice, but the tip just missed. Larocque followed up shortly after with a blast from the point that Räty had to be sharp to save. Howe made yet another save on Bunton, this time as the Rays player went into the zone all alone. She tracked the puck the whole way, and made the kick save with her left leg. Laura Fortino and Rattray had multiple great chances on the Rays’ net, before the Thunder were put on the advantage when Llanes went off for a body check on Bach. A few more great chances from all three Markham lines before the period ended tied at zero.

The second frame opened with some more good chances for the Thunder – Fortino just missed the net, and then Gina Repaci narrowly missed opening the scoring with a shot that hit the post. Shortly after, Jess Jones drove hard to the net with Kristen Richards who fed her the pass. Jones sent the puck over the blocker, giving Markham the lead. Bunton then went to the penalty box for holding, and Rattray buried a rebound from a Megan Bozek shot just as the power play came to an end. With the 2-0 lead, Howe kept play under control as the Rays had some sustained time in Markham’s zone. Barbara had a great block, and Forfar and Jones both had good chances in on Räty before the period expired.

Rattray opened the third period hitting the outside of the post. A group formed at the Thunder net a few minutes later after Howe covered the puck. From the scrum, Larocque and Madison Woo both received roughing minors. Llanes sent the puck five-hole on Howe, cutting the Thunder lead to 2-1. Woods then went to the box for interference, and Stacey followed shortly after on a cross-checking call giving Shenzhen a 5-on-3. Carpenter tied the game off a pass from Tongas the first penalty was winding down. As the Stacey penalty came to an end, Larocque went off for body contact. The Thunder killed it off, and Howe made a point-blank save on Bunton with less than a minute left in regulation.

Once again extra time was needed. Richards received a misconduct at the end of the third period, but play remained 4-on-4. Howe made a massive glove save, and then with under two minutes to go, the Rays turned the puck over in their own zone. Stacey picked up the puck and drove a shot to the net from her knee. She backhanded a pass cross-crease to Jones who was there to pick up the pass and send the puck over Räty’s stick for the win!

Game Three

Howe and Räty were once again called upon to guard their nets. Twenty-one seconds in, Kristen Barbara opened the scoring after a shot was redirected front of the net – assists went to Stacey and Forfar. King and Barbara had more chances for Markham, while Howe made great saves on Llanes, Mercer and Bunton. The opening frame ended with the Thunder up 1-0.

Barbara kicked this period off with a penalty this time, and sat for hooking. Luckily, the Thunder penalty killers were on their game and we returned to full strength. Bach had a great chance as she backhanded the puck as she moved through the crease, but Räty snagged it. Kelly Gribbons and Woods drove the puck to the net, and King shoved it past Räty widening Markham’s lead to 2-0. The assist was Gribbons’ first point in the CWHL. Shenzhen returned the favour 1:39 later as E. Woods put the puck in the top corner. Markham continued to pressure, with Jones, Gribbons and Rattray working hard in the offensive zone. With the clock winding down, Ella Matteucci took the puck into the zone and gave it to Laura Stacey who made a bee-line for the net. She took the puck below the goal line and hooked it back into the crease where Bach was there to pick it up and shoot it behind Räty as she was screened by Forfar. The 3-1 lead would carry into the intermission.

Rattray and Fortino almost connected to widen the lead to start the third. Play moved north and south, until 11:39 when Larocque was sent to the box for body checking. The Thunder kept the Rays’ power play unit at bay, and even with Räty pulled for the extra attacker with 2:45 left, Howe kept the puck out and the Thunder notched their second win of the China trip!