Toronto Furies advance to Clarkson Cup final
TORONTO, Ont. – After a nail-biting shootout victory, the Toronto Furies are headed to the Clarkson Cup final for the second time.
Natalie Spooner scored the winning shootout goal as the Furies defeated the Montreal Stars 2-1 in Clarkson Cup action at the Centennial Community Centre on Friday.
Christina Kessler, a native of Mississauga, Ontario, started in goal for Toronto on Friday making 34 saves on 35 shots while keeping the Furies competitive despite their lack of shots during the third period.
“I try to just stay in the moment,” Kessler said when asked about her mindset during the shootout. “Some games you get lots of shots and some games you don’t so I just try to stay with it, track the puck as much as I can and give the team a chance to get the win.”
From the opening faceoff, the heightened pace to the rivalry was evident as the Montreal Stars (1-2) – Toronto Furies (2-1) matchup provided an abundance of physical play combining for 26 total penalty minutes.
The Stars had the bulk of the momentum prior to getting into penalty trouble, killing-off two 5-on-3 Furies’ first period powerplay opportunities with relative ease.
Toronto has not scored with the man-advantage since the first game of the tournament against Calgary and is 0/13 on the powerplay since Wednesday.
Anne-Sophie Bettez, winner of the Angela James Bowl award this season with 40 points for the Stars, found herself in the penalty box for a substantial portion of the first period with two minor penalties.
After a scoreless first period, Furies’ forward Jenelle Kohanchuk broke the deadlock at 19:34 of the second period with her first goal of the tournament.
Montreal has been no stranger to playing from behind after coming back from a 1-0 deficit during Thursday’s victory over Calgary.
Stars forward Emmanuelle Blais tied the game up 1-1 wiring a shot top corner at 17:30 of the third period.
Montreal’s resilience and depth were on full display Friday. Starting goaltender Catherine Herron, originally from Chambly, Quebec, made 31 saves and played brilliantly for the Stars who finished the regular season with the league’s best penalty kill while sweeping the series with Toronto 5-0.
A penalty to Stars forward Julie Chu in overtime led to a climactic moment for Toronto’s then, 0/12 powerplay. A moment the Furies could not capitalize on.
Furies’ defenceman Michelle Bonello could not stay out of the penalty box receiving three separate minor penalty infractions before the third period.
Montreal forward Sarah Vaillancourt had the best chances to score, wiring two shots off the post, one during the third period and one in overtime. The Stars were disappointed that they could not play continuous overtime and were forced to partake in the shootout.
“I’m never a fan of shootouts,” Stars forward and Team USA Olympian Julie Chu said following the loss. “Overtime is my preference.”
Friday’s morning game was the first of the tournament to be at over-capacity in the arena. Local schools bused in 1750 students in addition to the tickets sold.
Toronto will face the Boston Blades in the Clarkson Cup final Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. and Spooner is ready for the challenge.
“We know they are a good team with a lot of good players but we have to control their speed and put more pucks in against them,” Spooner said.
“It is definitely going to be a battle tomorrow and we will be ready for it.”
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