Toronto Furies win First-Ever Clarkson Cup in OT

Boston Blades vs Toronto Furies

Boston Blades vs Toronto Furies, Clarkson Cup final match, Saturday March 22nd, 2014 at Centennial Arena in Markham, Ontario.

The Clarkson Cup is over – but how sweet it was. On a day when many expected the Montreal Stars to battle the Boston Blades in the final, Toronto showed up with a fire in their belly. Held scoreless for three nerve-wracking periods, the Furies finally put a puck past Boston Blade’s netminder Brittany Ott to clinch their first-ever Clarkson Cup win.

It wasn’t so much the Furies forwards who shone on this particular afternoon, but Toronto’s Christina Kessler and her talented defence. It was Britni Smith who scored the OT winner. Smith, as skilled a defenceman as any, has often flown under the radar. Though recognized by her own team and given the captaincy, she was not invited to participate in Canada’s Olympic training camp pre-Sochi. Come and watch any Furies game however, and you will see evidence of Smith’s particular talents on the ice. Rarely will you see her in the penalty box, though it is usually her job to stop the best of the fleet-footed snipers on the opposing team. How does Smith accomplish this? She matches their speed and follows their moves and waits for them to give up the puck – and when they do, Smith gets her stick or skate on the puck and clears it before it ever gets near her net. Anyone who has ever played defence can attest to how difficult this is. Smith makes it all look easy.

Then there was Martine Garland and Shannon Moulson. Both played a great game – smart with the puck, refusing to panic, patrolling the blue line with size and presence. Both these defencemen have played strongly all year and on Saturday afternoon they were a big part of the reason the Furies won the game. They got the Furies inside the Blade’s blue-line and refused them passage through the middle ice.

Two other defencemen stood out as well – Tessa Bonhomme and Michelle Bonello. Bonello for her breakneck speed in retrieving those pucks that went dangerously near the Furies net before the Blades could grab them. Bonello showed flashes of brilliance in reading the play and spinning and turning and passing the puck back up ice. Bonhomme, for her part, continued to do what she does every game. Steal pucks from some of the top offensive players in the league while patrolling the boards, pass tape to tape to her open forwards, jump into the rush at the opponent’s net, keep those pucks in at the blueline at all costs and control the power-plays.

There’s one other player who doesn’t always get the praise she deserves and that’s Lexie Hoffmeyer. Hoffmeyer was that solid presence on the ice that squared off against players from the Calgary Inferno, the Montreal Stars and the Boston Blades. Taking on everyone bigger and larger than herself, Hoffmeyer emerged with the puck and used her grittiness to keep the Furies in the game. She had a big hockey heart on the ice and her passion for playing the game no doubt inspired her teammates to keep digging in.

Last, but certainly not least, was Kessler. What a game she had! Boston had at least 3 sure goals that even the crowd was certain would find the back of the net. Kessler’s reflexes were astonishingly quick and her presence in the net focussed and confident. She did not waver all game and carried the Furies to their first Stanley Cup victory.

This Clarkson cup final goes to Kessler and the Furies defence. They denied the Blades a chance to ignite their lethal offensive play and held Hillary Knight, Stack, Bellamy and the rest scoreless.

Furies Drop 2 to Montreal Stars – or Did They?

February 15 and 16, 2014 – MasterCard Centre, Etobicoke, Ontario
Game 1 : Montreal 5 – Toronto 4
Game 2 : Montreal 4 – Toronto 3

The Toronto Furies vs les Stars de Montréal, February 15 & 16, 2014 at the MasterCard Centre.

The Toronto Furies vs les Stars de Montréal, February 15 & 16, 2014 at the MasterCard Centre.

Now here’s a curious thing – Toronto should have won both of those games. They had some great offensive rushes. They had some brilliant play-making, both by the forwards and the defence. They had heart and they had speed.

Carolyn Prévost dazzled with a jet-fuelled rush from the red line, a step ahead of the Montreal defence and onto the goal under pressure, with a great shot that beat the Stars net-minder, Catherine Herron. Britni Smith was equally dazzling on Sunday when she took control of the puck and skated deep into the Montreal zone. Her patience with the puck, her almost feline-agility and a shot quickly fired at the net all came together for a beautiful goal.

Tessa Bonhomme was out there too – an Olympian through and through (heck, there are any number of “Olympians” on the Furies squad that could or should be in Sochi – Smith and Prévost come to mind, of course). Bonhomme has been reinventing herself as a forward and there were moments when her intelligent play-making skills opened up scoring chances that seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Keep an eye on Bonhomme – she’s not done yet. At age 28, there’s a lot more she can pull out of her hockey hat. Gretzky played some of his best hockey at 32 years of age. A high school friend has said that even as a young teenager, Bonhomme was “miles ahead” of everyone else on the ice – that was including the players already singled out for their hockey skills. Hopefully she’ll reach farther and pull out some more tricks from the depths of her hockey brain – there’s all kinds of stuff still untapped in there. Let’s hope Bonhomme can reorient herself to the pursuit of scoring goals instead of preventing goals, and then the Furies will have both a “Gretzky” in Bonhomme and a “Kurri” in Prévost.

Oh – and Bonello was there too, using her end to end speed. Moulson and Garland patrolled the blue line, keeping the puck in for their forwards, cutting off the fleet-footed attack of the Montreal Stars and taking slap shots on Herron. Lexie Hoffemeyer calmly and deftly poked away pucks, blocked shots and sent the play back up the ice to resume the attack on the Stars net. Katie Wilson kept her light touch, trying to float the puck across to her wingers, despite the fact that the Montreal Stars were covering almost every inch of the ice inside their blue-line. And I still haven’t mentioned the constant, savvy presence of Cheverie and Carrie-Mattimoe and the offensive drive of Apps and Baldin.

So why did the Furies lose? Well, they didn’t really. They won the games, but lost out to penalties. Some were deserved, but some left fans wondering if the refs were favouring Montreal, who matched every push and shove from the Furies but spent a considerably less amount of time in the penalty box. Without those penalties, Toronto would have edged out the Stars. With successive power plays handed to them, the Montreal Stars were too strong a team not to capitalize on the situation.

March 1st the two teams meet again. Let’s see if the Furies can claim the victories they were denied this time around. It’s exactly what they need to do as they start on their quest for the Clarkson Cup.

4-Time Olympian Hefford Wins One for the Team

1358108756455Jayna Hefford set the tone for the second game of the Furies-Brampton match-up on Sunday, January 13th. Fans gathered around rink #4 at the Mastercard Centre and waited to see what would happen. They didn’t have to wait long. With a penalty given to Brampton, Hefford got the puck, went in on a break-away and scored on a perfectly placed shot. 1-0 for Brampton. After some end-to-end play, with 8:50 to go, Brampton had their turn to go on the power-play. Rebecca Johnston and Jennifer Brine did some great work on the penalty kill, but eventually the Furies were caught too far forward and Brampton swept across the blue-line unchecked. Cherie Piper was there to jump on a rebound and fired the puck into the net past Sami-Jo Small.

With the score now 2-0, Brampton went looking for their 3rd goal of the game. Hefford made a great pass forward to her line-mate but Small was there to make the save. Then the Furies defence made a pass that was intercepted easily by a Brampton forward, leading to another great shot on net. The Furies followed with some play-making in front of the Brampton net, with Shannon Moulson taking a couple of nice slapshots from the point and Rebecca Johnston and Tessa Bonhomme doing some inspired passing. With less than two minutes to go, Lexie Hoffmeyer received a penalty for a well-timed body check. Nathalie Spooner went to work, giving a great centering-pass in front of Brampton’s net but it slipped under two Furies’ sticks and the chance for a goal was lost.

The 2nd period opened with Brampton gaining possession of the puck. Showing great patience inside the Furie’s blue line, Hefford slid a sweet pass accross the ice to #10, Gillian Apps who wasted no time putting the puck in the net. 3-0 Brampton. With 15 penalties handed out during the game (6 in period 2 alone), both teams had ample time to impress with their defensive skills. Tempers flared on both benches after some questionable calls – notably Meagan Aarts who was taken out at the boards and was somehow rewarded with 2 minutes in the penalty box. Brampton did some great work along the boards during the 2nd but Small and her defence kept them at bay. With the clock running out of time, Bonhomme tried to make something happen. Reading the play, she kept the puck in the Brampton zone but the buzzer went, signalling the end of the period.

On to the 3rd period, with more penalties and even a 4 on 3 just after the 11 minute mark. Both goalies had their hands full saving shots and clearing pucks. Half way through the period, Hoffmeyer entered the Brampton zone, took a hard shot at the left side of the net and scored, to the delight of her Furies’ teammates. With the score now 3-1, Brampton defence showed off their skills, with Courtney Brichard stealing the puck from Johnston who was gunning for the net. Another penalty for Brampton which prompted Brampton’s captain to have a “chat” with the ref. With the clock running down in the 3rd, the Furie’s #28, Brooke Beazer blocked a powerful slapshot and collapsed on the ice in obvious pain. Skating off the rink moments later, doubled over, she exited the game, unable to continue.

The Furies tried valiantly to get a goal after they lost Beazer. 4 shots in a row on Florence Schelling ended with a whistle and players from both teams sprawled on the ice. The Furies kept the pressure up with a sizzling slapshot from Kelly Zamora and shot by Spooner who almost put it throught the 5-hole. With less than 2 minutes to go in the game, Hefford spotted the empty net in the Furies zone. Patiently watching the play, she grabbed the puck at the blue line and skated in for the goal. Brampton wins 4-1 and Hefford dazzles with 2 goals and 2 assists. Laura McIntosh gets the 2nd star for her intelligent passing and play-making throughout the game.

Post Script: Jayna Hefford has 3 Olympic gold, 1 Olympic silver, 6 World Championship gold and 3 World Championship silver medals. That`s 13 medals for those of you who don`t have a calculator handy. You can watch her play for the price of a $10 ticket.

A Hat-Trick for Wakefield

2013-01-19 12.21.39It’s Saturday night and the Furies and Brampton have just faced-off at Victoria Park Arena. Fans of both teams were on hand to watch the match-up. Toronto got off to a quick lead with the Furies big forward, Kelly Zamora, netting a goal, followed by the first of three goals for Jennifer Wakefield. 2-0 for the Furies. With a little over 6 minutes left in the 1st period, Brampton and then the Furies went on the power-play. The score held at 2-0, however, as both team’s goalies proved up to the challenge of 5 against 4. Tessa Bonhomme set up a neat tic-tac-toe play but was denied a goal when Liz Knox deftly made the save.

Bring on Brampton, who got their first goal after a slap shot from the point found its way into the net making the score 2 -1. Another penalty, this time for Brampton led to a great short-handed rush and a big save by Furies net-minder, Christina Kessler. A bad line-change by the Furies at the end of the 1st period nearly cost them a goal, but Kessler saved the day again.

The 2nd period opened with a determined Furies anxious to increase their lead. After keeping the puck in the Brampton zone with some good positional play, Nathalie Spooner was able to tuck the puck in under the pads of Knox, making it 3-1 for the Furies. Brampton nearly made it 3-2, when short-handed, they made a rush to the Furies end and took a big shot. Kessler was there – of course (she would later be awarded the 1st star of the game) – and back went the puck to Brampton’s end. The defence kept the puck in and Deluce pounced on a rebound, scoring the Furies 4th goal of the night. Brampton nearly got their 2nd goal when a shot dinged the goal post. After yet another penalty, Gillian Apps had a pretty goal, unassisted, as she skated by in front of the Furies net and slipped a puck past Kessler.

No surprise that the 3rd period began with another penalty – this time for the Furies. Natalie Spooner tried to get her first goal of the game on a short-handed rush but couldn’t get enough power on her shot. Penalty over, both teams were determined to drive the score higher. After a face-off deep inside Brampton’s zone, Jennifer Wakefield received a pass from Amanda Shaw, and, with quick reflexes netted the puck into the top right corner. 5-2 for the Furies.

Jayna Hefford made a valiant attempt to close the gap, deaking around some Furies and taking a hard shot that went just high of the net. She got another chance a few moments later, when Brampton was rewarded for keeping the puck inside the Furies blue-line. Hefford slipped the puck into the corner of the net, just shy of Kessler’s pads. 5-3, with the Furies still ahead by 2. Lori Dupuis tried to make it 5-4 when she received a great pass from her team-mate and shot for the top corner of the net. The puck missed its mark, however. Johnson then used her speed to carry the puck back into Brampton’s zone, but her shot sailed just over the crossbar.

With 5 minutes left to go, Brampton’s Bailey Bram kept her wits about her in front of the Furies net and snatched up a puck and shot it past Kessler to make it 5-4. The scoring wasn’t over yet, however. Wakefield got her 3rd goal of the night with a quick wrister inside Brampton’s face-off circle. 6-4 and the action moved back to the Furies end. Brampton turned up the heat and fired off multiple shots, but to no avail. Kessler stopped them all with some help from her defence who had done a great job all night fending off Brampton during the power-play. Finally, with less than a minute to go, Spooner gunned down the ice and took a shot on an empty Brampton net. The defence was there to catch the puck on the goal crease, making a great last second save. Spooner shot again and this time got the shot in. The game ended 7-4 for the Furies, who put on a great performance for their fans.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Give the CWHL $30,000

HApparently, the Toronto Maple Leafs are giving the CWHL $30,000 anually for the next five years. The Leafs are estimated to be worth in excess of 1 billion dollars. Their operating income alone is around 80 million. Minus the $30,000, that number slips to $79,970,000.

So let’s see…here’s what the Furies could do with the $30,000 – assuming they had access to the full amount:

–Pay only the captain a yearly salary of $30,000. Everyone else would continue to play for free. Lucky you, Tessa Bonhomme.

–Buy 300 moderately good sticks provided they were on sale.

–Charter 15 bus trips from Toronto to Montreal.

–Buy one 7 second TV commercial during this year’s Stanley Cup.

–Buy 150 pairs of moderately-priced skates.

–Buy 6000 rolls of pretty good hockey tape.

–Buy 1551 x-large “Canadian Eh” pizzas, excluding delivery charge and tip.

–Buy 1251 cases of fancy beer.

–Pay each player $300 for the season.

Maybe the CWHL should go for the 1251 cases of beer. Each player could have 751 fancy beers during the regular season. Thank you Leafs. Have fun with the other $79,790,000. That’s a lot of beer for you!

One For the Furies

Mastercard Centre, Toronto - Sunday, Jan. 6th, 2013

Mastercard Centre, Toronto – Sunday, Jan. 6th, 2013

Game 2 of the Stars-Furies series on Sunday, Jan. 6th, 2013. Once again at the Mastercard Centre – this time for an afternoon puck-drop – the Stars were looking for another decisive win against the Furies. In the Stars line-up were Caroline Ouellette, Sarah Vaillancourt, Meghan Agosta-Marciano and Charline Labonté – all members of the gold-winning Canadian Women’s Hockey Team in 2010. On the Furies bench were a handful of newly acquired draft picks hoping to carry their team all the way to a Clarkson Cup final.

Toronto was beaten 4-0 on Sat. so they did what every team needs to do in their situation – score the first goal. Finding a loose puck with 14 minutes still to go in the 1st period, Rebecca Johnston used her quick reflexes to grab and shoot. The result was a 1-0 lead for the Furies. That put Montreal on the offensive, with shots coming fast at the Furies goaltender – this time Erika Vanderveer. With lots of action in their own zone, the Furies found themselves handed a power-play after some pushing and shoving in front of their own net. Unable to capitalize on the 5-on-4, it was the Furies turn to be down a player. Trying to outwit the Star offense was nerve-wracking for the Toronto fans, but no shot got past Vanderveer. The score remained 1-0 in favour of Toronto.

The 2nd period opened with Nathalie Spooner, No. 5, spotting a loose puck. With her team playing short-handed, she scooped it up with her stick, took a quick look around and carried it all the way past the Star’s defence, deep into their zone. Using her long, powerful strides to drive right to the Montreal net, Spooner let off a shot that found its mark. An exciting goal and a 2-0 lead for the Furies.

Montreal nearly got their first goal of the game when the Furies netminder lost track of the puck briefly as it slid behind her and hovered on the goal line. Vanderveer retrieved the puck and put it safely in her glove, however, and the score remained 2-0.

Montreal was not going to settle for a scoreless game, though – especially with Megan Agosta-Marciano on the prowl. After getting the puck from Anne-Sophie Bettez, she promptly put it in the back of the Furies net, followed by another quick Star’s goal to even the score at 2-2. Nathalie Spooner soon answered for the Furies with her second goal of the night, receiving a great pass from her line-mates and buring the puck behind Labonté. Great action with the Furies now ahead 3-2. Determined to increase the lead, Rebecca Johnston turned up the heat, taking a series of shots on Labonté who made some great saves to deny her a goal.

After a boarding penalty inflicted by the Stars tough defencewoman, Haley Irwin, Spooner, Deluce and Johnston all went to work taking shots on the Stars goaltender. With just 4 minutes to go, the score still 3-2 in favour of Toronto, Montreal pulled some play-making magic out its hat and tied the game at 3-3 with a goal from Dominique Thibault.

The Furies fans were wondering if they would have to settle for a tie, when Toronto`s Tessa Bonhomme crossed the blue line and netted what turned out to be the winning goal. The team was jubilant as their captain came through with a clutch goal and ended the series with a win against a very tough Montreal team.

Standing Room Only

DSC_1322

MASTERCARD CENTRE, TORONTO – SATURDAY, JAN. 5TH, 2013

The Montreal Stars and Toronto Furies squared off against one another on Saturday night (Jan. 5th, 2013) at the Mastercard Centre. It was a sell-out crowd and energy was high. Sportscaster Ron MacLean showed up, as did a number of other notable “celebrities” to take in the action. And action we got. Montreal took quick possession of the puck after the faceoff, racing into the Toronto zone for a few quick shots on the net. Toronto counter-attacked with their own shots and so the game went. The fleet-footed Furies tried to outskate the Stars, who did some wonderful passing plays on-the-fly. Montreal struck early, with a goal by the gifted and resourceful Caroline Oullette. No. 13 dominated the play-making, using both speed and patience to wear down the Furies defence. Tessa Bonhomme tried to even the score at 1-1 with some nifty moves over the blue line and a perfectly executed centering pass. Labonté was there to make the save, though – as she was for the rest of the night. Montreal went on the power play with 1:30 to go in the first, but the Furies defence valiantly held off the attack.

At the start of the 2nd period, the Stars put the pressure on. Crisp passes up and down the ice led to some great shots on net. At the 8:21 mark, Caroline Ouellette (who else?) pounced on a missed puck left dangling in mid-ice after a Furie went down at the blue line. No. 13 drove to the net, shot with precision and scored. Minutes later, Rebecca Johnston used her considerable speed to race across the blue line and go up against Labonté alone. The Stars goalie was having none of it, though, and made the save. After more end-to-end action, Montreal managed to push in a goal in front of a very crowed goal crease. Goaltender Sami-Jo Small had made some great saves, but it was this little blooper that rebounded off a stick and then the goalie pad that finally made it to the back of the net.

Down 3-0, the Furies came out and skated like the wind in the 3rd. Nathalie “Spoons” Spooner carried the puck end-to-end, flying past the formidable Stars defence and centering a nice pass – but, no goal. Montreal countered with their own rush to the Furies net, with the right winger making a beautiful, last minute pass all the way across the ice to Anne Sophie-Bettez, who quickly put the puck into the net.

Trailing 4-0, the Furies did not give-up. Mallory Deluce let a hard slap-shot go at the blue line, and then Spooner and Johnston combined to take successive shots on Labonté. With less than a minute to go, surrounded by Stars defence and trapped behind the net, Jennifer Wakefield flipped the puck over the net in an ingenious little play. A Furie gloved the pass and shot on net – but…you guessed it! Labonté was there to make the save. A great game by the Stars.

Puck Drop

Women’s hockey is fast and fleet. Women’s hockey is about poetry on the ice. It’s jazz. The sort of thing that’s in perpetual motion. No one play is exactly the same. No one rush from end to end traverses the same path across the ice. It’s about strength and speed, lightness and creativity. There are those teams that are consummate play makers (Boston comes to mind and so does Brampton – but in a different way). There are the teams that are young and fast, rough around the edges and full of heart. Alberta – the lone team from out west – is that eclectic mix of drive, inexperience and determination. The Furies – now using the state-of-the-art MasterCard Centre as their home-base – aren’t the best team yet, but they’ve got a whole handful of players that can’t be beat when it comes time to rush the opponent’s net. There are veteran players that patiently hold their teams together to pull off a win – willing plays to take shape when nothing seems to be happening. And there are players that dazzle with their individual skills. The Montreal Stars have set their eyes and considerable talents on the Clarkson Cup. They’ve won three of the last four tournaments and will no doubt be gunning to secure their spot in the history books as a dynasty. There is so much to write, so many many talented players to profile and a hot season in full swing. Women’s professional hockey is North America’s best kept secret. Those of us in the know are all watching.

CWHL | Action

This web site is under development. (We thought we should warn you.)

The Air Canada Centre in Toronto was the scene of a historical moment on Saturday November 17 when 2 teams from the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CHWL) played for the first time. The day was electrifying for the 5,000+ fans. The Toronto Furies won the match against Alberta (3-0), but all players and fans in attendance were witness to a magical day. National Team player Jennifer Botterill and Hockey Hall of Famer Angela James were present for the ceremonial puck drop. Read more about it >

Toronto Furies vs Alberta at the Air Canada Centre

Spooner and Brine from the Furies appear on the large screen above. Brine scored the 2nd goal of the game which ended with a 3-0 victory for Toronto. Team Alberta Goalie, Desjardins, received a star.