The Thunder took on les Canadiennes de Montreal, defending Clarkson Cup champions, the weekend of October 28th and 29th. The first look the teams had of each other after last season’s bitter playoff matchup, the games delivered intensity and passion. The Thunder also welcomed back Ellie Seedhouse, who last played with the team in 2015-16, as a call up to help fill out the lineup. On Saturday’s game the Thunder were joined by two special guests – Jocelyne Larocque and Laura Stacey! Our Captain and the 2016-17 Rookie of the Year were on a break from their centralization with Hockey Canada to check out their new CWHL home in Markham!
Erica Howe and Emerance Maschmeyer were called on to defend their respective nets, and they would settle in for a long duel. Early on, Montreal tried to press the Markham defence, but they could not establish themselves in the zone. The play was fast, and Montreal was called for a hooking call just over two minutes into the period. With the Thunder trying to set up their power play, Kristen Richards was sent to the box shortly after for a slash. Neither team would be able to convert on the 4-on-4 play. The action continued to move north and south with Karolina Urban and Jamie Lee Rattray each having good scoring opportunities. As the end of the period approached, les Canadiennes headed back to the box on a slashing call. Markham pressured, but were unable to get one past Maschmeyer.
The second period saw more back and forth between the teams, each exchanging chances, but Howe and Maschmeyer stood tall. Montreal then took four minor penalties within the last half of the frame, two were for body checking as Urban and Jessica Hartwick were taken down. The Thunder peppered les Canadiennes with shots, but as they came close the net came loose. The period would end with the 0-0 deadlock intact.
Markham and Montreal both came out looking to finally get the go-ahead goal, and the speed and physicality continued. Hartwick was sent to the penalty box early in the period for interference, but Howe and the penalty killers didn’t give Montreal an inch. Howe continued to stay sharp making key saves through traffic and les Canadiennes storming the crease. Sixty minutes would not be enough, so we headed to overtime!
The Thunder came out strong in OT. Kristen Barbara narrowly missed the net, and Howe made the save as Montreal took the puck into Markham’s zone. The Thunder quickly moved back into the offensive zone and took the shot. Maschmeyer bobbled the puck and needed to reach behind to keep it out of her net. Shortly after, les Canadiennes’ Cathy Chartrand was able to put the puck in behind Howe with just over a minute left in OT.
Liz Knox guarded the Thunder net, while Maschmeyer started her second game of the weekend. It was another fast-paced, physical game and Markham was awarded two power plays early on. Unfortunately, the Thunder were unable to get the puck behind Maschmeyer. With just over six minutes remaining in the period, Chartrand sailed the puck past Knox and les Canadiennes took the lead. Not long after, Richards was called for a hook shortly followed by Kim Deschênes heading off for Montreal on a tripping penalty. After Markham’s penalty expired, Dania Simmonds found Richards, who got the puck to Rattray who potted it in behind the goaltender. The first period would end tied at 1-1.
The second frame began with a charged Thunder pressuring les Canadiennes. Devon Skeats had a great chance but the net came loose, then King connected with Rattray but the shot hit Maschmeyer in the crest. Close to the halfway mark, Hartwick and Emmanuelle Blais were sent to their penalty boxes for coincidental penalties – hooking and roughing. Neither team was able to score during the 4-on-4. Back to even strength, Sarah Lefort placed a shot over Knox’s blocker and Montreal took the 2-1 lead. The period ended with a great chance from Richards who attempted to tip one past Maschmeyer.
The Thunder would begin the third on the penalty kill as Hartwick and Katia Clement-Heydra got into it at the end of 40 minutes – Hartwick took the extra minor. After the coincidentals ran out, Seedhouse took a hard shot from the hashmarks, but the save was made. With Hartwick out of the box, the Thunder were swarming Montreal’s net. Maschmeyer left her crease, but Skeats was not able to get the shot from the side of the net. Megan Delay was sent off for roughing, and Knox shone on the penalty kill seeing through the traffic Montreal was creating. With five minutes remaining, the Thunder received a power play after Chartrand was called for a trip. Using the momentum from the man advantage, Lindsay Grigg forced Maschmeyer to make a quick save with a shot from the goal line. With the clock running down the line of Richards, Rattray and Laura McIntosh were buzzing in the offensive zone. They were able to connect with less than two minutes in the period with McIntosh netting the tying goal!
Once again, three periods were not enough and the teams headed to another overtime period. Lefort would score for les Canadiennes near the end of the final frame.
Thoughts from the Thunder
Both games saw incredible performances from the goaltenders – Howe made 35 saves and Knox had 26 stops. The Thunder played complete team games, containing Montreal’s offence while bombarding them with 69 total shots over the weekend.
Speaking on Saturday’s game: “There are definitely a lot of bodies, a really physical game,” said Melissa Wronzberg. “We just have to keep crashing the net – the rebounds are there.”
“We played really well, it was probably one of the best all-round games we’ve played,” added Simmonds. “We really need to get that puck in the net. Maschmeyer gave us a few good open nets and we didn’t capitalize.”
On Sunday’s game: “We were forechecking well, getting clean breakouts… we just need to keep putting pressure and get more shots,” said Lindsay Grigg.
Nicole Brown agreed, “We need to be more aggressive on the puck, keep our heads up and get more shots on net.”
“I thought we played a great game, very fast from the get-go and we stayed with them the whole game. Even when we got down early we didn’t give up and took them right to overtime,” reflected Seedhouse.
The Thunder go on roadtrips to Calgary and ShenZen in November, returning home for a rematch against les Canadiennes on December 2nd.