Thunder Sweep Red Star in Home Opening Weekend

Two very special games on the weekend of October 21st and 22nd marked success on and off the ice for the Thunder. Our first games at our new home in Markham also featured the debut of Kunlun Red Star to the CWHL, and a fundraiser for the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.

Game One

Liz Knox got the start in the home opener, a fitting moment as she grew up in near-by Stouffville. Knox had to be sharp in the first couple of minutes as Kunlun came out firing, but her teammates quickly went the other way peppering Raty. With both teams running on all cylinders, it wasn’t long before things got physical. Both Markham and Kunlun took four penalties in the opening period, more than half called for roughing. With the period winding down, Kunlun got on the board with a goal from Hickel (Stack, Yu) to give them the lead.

Early in the second Kristen Richards was called for cross checking, but the Thunder kept the Red Star offence at bay. Renewed after the successful penalty killed, Jamie Lee Rattray was in close on the Kunlun goal, but the puck wouldn’t go in. Then Laura McIntosh dished it across to Karolina Urban, but the defender went down at the last second, blocking the pass. It wasn’t long before Rattray had the puck again, and this time it got in behind Raty. It was Rattray’s first goal of the season and we were tied at 1-1 midway through the second frame.

The rest of the period featured the Thunder storming the offensive zone, but they were foiled by the Red Star defence and Raty. Nicole Kosta collided with Stack late in the frame and would not return to the game.

The third period was high with emotions – Markham looking to win their first home game, and Kunlun searching to get two points in their CWHL debut. The Thunder came out blazing, and before five minutes could tick off the clock, Urban passed to Barbara where she threaded the needle to Rattray back door tipping her second of the night behind Raty.

After more back and forth play, Kunlun was awarded a penalty shot with less than a minute left to play in the game.  Lianes took the shot, but Knox made it look easy with a quick catch of her glove. Time would run out, and the Thunder would win the home opener 2-1!

Tim Horton’s Three Stars

*Liz Knox

**Jamie Lee Rattray

*** Rachel Lianes

Game 2

The Thunder partnered with the Howe family to raise funds and awareness for the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. Erica Howe got the nod in net, and she met Noora Raty at center ice to take the ceremonial face off from her mother, Canadian Forces Major Jane Bruce, and Charles Mott, ambassador for the Foundation.

Only 30 seconds after the referee dropped the puck, Taylor Woods let one fly past Raty scoring her first goal in the CWHL, assisted by Skeats and Urban, giving the Thunder an early lead. Only a minute and a half later, Kristen Richards found Rattray open, and the shot hit the twine! With the early 2-0 lead, Markham worked hard to kill off three penalties, and continued to keep the Kunlun defence on their toes during three power plays, including one awarded at the end of the period.

The second period started with a bit of deja vu as Simmonds found Rattray in front putting the Thunder up 3-0 only 36 seconds after the face off. Howe continued to stand on her head, turning away everything the Red Star threw at her – including going from post to post and using her toe to keep the puck out! Markham retrieved the puck, and Rattray sped down the ice, dangled Raty, but the goaltender was up to the task. The rest of the Thunder charged the net for the rebound, but once again Raty made it over in time to deny another goal.

The final frame began with Devon Skeats having some words with Raty after an early whistle. These battles would continue as the teams played two bouts of 4-on-4 action. The Red Star pressed Howe and her defence trying to get on the scoreboard, but she stood tall.  

With her family and fans in the stands wearing special t-shirts honouring her father Peter Howe, Erica stopped the last shot and held on for her second shutout of the season.

Tim Horton’s Three Stars

*Erica Howe

**Jamie Lee Rattray

*** Lindsay Grigg

Thoughts from the Thunder

“It was a very exciting weekend for both teams. The house was packed on Saturday night and they got quite the show. Nothing like a physical, back and forth one goal game with a penalty shot at the end of it,” said Thunder General Manager Chelsea Purcell. “Our team battled hard and I’m looking forward to seeing how we match up with the rest of the teams in the League. It’s early in the season, but I only see success ahead with this new group of players and staff we have.”

Giving her thoughts on the first look at Kunlun and the home crowd Taylor Woods said, “They’re pretty fast, and move the puck pretty well. We had a good jump, there’s great energy in the rink.”

Liz Knox agreed, “We had an outstanding crowd here for us tonight, so it’s pretty exciting to be able to get the first win at home. I was able to make key saves when I needed to, but the team stepped up – it was a great team effort with everyone stepping up.”

Erica Howe on her second shutout and what it meant to get the win on such an important day: “It just felt good, it was an emotional day. On the way to the rink I was thinking about the past nine years without my dad. For the team to come together like that, clear the rebounds from out in front, block shots, and battle… it felt really good knowing I had the team behind me.”