After being swept a week earlier by the Calgary Inferno, the Brampton Thunder had one thing one their mind this past weekend, and it was a much needed 4 points. A hard week of practice prepared the Thunder for a battle with their cross-town rivals the Toronto Furies. Fueled by elite talent such as Natalie Spooner, Renata Fast and Erin Ambrose, the Thunder knew this series would need every player to contribute. “Something changed after the Calgary series.” Says Coach Fines. “Practice was more up-tempo, we were executing and playing the game the right way.”
The Thunder took focus on shutting down the top line and getting more shots on the Furies netminder. The game plan was broken on Saturday night but the Thunder found a way to win. Sunday, the plan was executed to perfection holding the top line to zero points.
Game 1: Win 4-3
The Thunder rolled into the MasterCard Centre in Toronto ready to battle. The Thunder struck first with Rebecca Vint marking the first tally of the night, assisted by Jess Jones and Jamie Lee Rattray. Ten minutes later, Natalie Spooner scored on Erica Howe, and the teams would end the first period tied 1-1.
Early in the second, the Furies were called for high-sticking, but even a player down could not stop Spooner, assisted by Erin Ambrose, from giving the Furies a 2-1 lead. One the next Thunder power play however, Rattray would not miss the chance to tie the game up once again and Courtney Birchard and Jones would get the assists. With the period winding down, Jones scored on Christina Kessler with help from Rattray and Laura Fortino. Spooner would not be denied as she netted her third goal of the game from Renata Fast, and once again the Thunder and Furies headed off the ice tied.
The third period proved contentious as Brampton was sent to the box four times, and Toronto once. Toronto had a 5-on-3 near the end of the third but was not able to execute and gave the Thunder all the momentum. As the 60 minute began to close in on this tight game and everyone thought overtime was inevitable. The furies broke out of their zone with 30 seconds left but Larocque stepped up at the red line, poked the puck away and drove down the side on a 2 on 1. She found Jess Jones all alone in front where she buried it behind Kessler, giving the Thunder the 4-3 win in regulation! Both Jones and Rattray ended the night with four points.
3 Stars: *Natalie Spooner, **Jamie Lee Rattray, ***Jess Jones
Game 2: Win 2-0
Sponsored by Graham Alarm Monitoring LTD, puck drop by President Paul Graham.
Sunday’s game saw the Thunder return home to Memorial Arena, and defenceman and alternate captain Courtney Birchard would play her 100th game in the CWHL. Playing in Memorial Arena, a much difference in rink size, changes the complexity of the hockey game. From puck drop it was a physical game. The chances went back and forth in the early going but The Thunder took over. At the halfway mark of the first period, Laura Fortino scored, assisted by Jenna McParland.
The Thunder headed to the locker room up 1-0, and shortly after their return to the ice, Birchard scored, assisted by Vint, putting a cherry on top of her 100th game in the CWHL! Scoring 2 goals was enough and Liz Knox shut the door recording her 3rd shutout of the 2016 season and received her 30th win as a Thunder goaltender.
“I can’t say more about our effort this weekend”, says Fines. “We (Thunder) started slowly and had to battle through some team adversity to get to this point. Right now, our concern is to grow as a team, continue to hold each other accountable and remember why we are here.”
The Thunder came away from the weekend with all four points, bringing them only one point behind the Furies in the standings.
3 Stars: *Courtney Birchard, **Liz Knox, ***Michela Cava