In the first game of a three-game series Les Canadiennes de Montreal made mincemeat of the Toronto Furies, a strong team in their own right.
The game began with a tense first period that saw Montreal play a tentative game and Toronto lean into the momentum right off the jump with a Natalie Spooner shot.
“They set us back on our heels a bit,” said Montreal captain Caroline Ouellette to Robyn Flynn during the second intermission, while Spooner’s team found the confidence that they needed in the first to keep the competition alive. Montreal took two penalties, giving Toronto the opportunity to wear down their opponent’s legs a bit but the Furies did not manage to convert on any of their power play chances.
The first period turned into a true goalie battle, with Montreal still dominating in shots on goal despite the 0-0 tie that ended the period; Christina Kessler found herself steady in net and gloving down a huge amount of high-danger shots. When the two teams left the ice, fans were biting their nails.
Les Canadiennes found a bit of fire in their bellies during intermission and came back strong. Drawing two separate penalties gave Montreal the opportunity to put the puck on net even more and scoring exploded with a wrist shot by Anne-Sophie Bettez that found the back of Toronto’s net. Kim Deschenes and Marie Philip Poulin earned the assists on that goal, setting up a clever play to move Kessler just enough for Bettez’s shot to reach past the goal line.
Next came two back-to-back goals by Ouellette, the second of which was a testament to her ability to wait for the shot. Ouellette took the puck behind Toronto’s net, spun herself and glided backwards with the puck, waiting for the right moment when, like magic, the right side of the net opened up.
Montreal regularly took the puck behind Toronto’s net in an attempt to tire Kessler out, confound her and get any kind of edge over her. While Spooner might be up for MVP of the CWHL, Kessler was the true MVP of the Furies Friday night despite allowing five goals on net. She remained calm throughout the game, never letting a shot rock her or throw her off her pace and her glove hand was deadly. The majority of goals on Kessler relied on a combination of traffic to screen Kessler’s vision and intelligent play that drew her out of her net just far enough for a goal to be slid in behind her on the other side.
It is of note that Montreal only saw goals from its top line tonight, who also comprise the power play. In a longer series this might be more of a concern when it comes to player fatigue, depth (of which they have plenty) and teamwork, but if Montreal can wrap this series up in two games, they’ll be on the right side of history.
The third period saw Poulin put two past Kesler and Spooner fire back to end the game, leaving the Furies down one heading into the second game of the series.
There was a lot of underrated work from Julie Chu, who set up a number of offensive opportunities for her forward line, as well as the Furies’ Kelly Terry, who utilized her speed well and never gave up on a puck.
Marie Philip Poulin walked away with the first star of the game Friday night having added so much offensive momentum to the Montreal’s game that Montreal outshot Toronto 2-1 in the first, 3-1 in the second and likely continued the trend in the third. (Due to a computer glitch the league was unable to track shots for the broadcast in the third period.) Caroline Ouellete, who also scored two goals, hers back-to-back, took the second star of the night and Anne-Sophie Bettez, rounding out Montreal’s first line, took the third star of the night.