The Markham Thunder took advantage of many opportunities on the power play to come out on top, winning a nail-biter 4-3 over Les Canadiennes on Saturday evening in front of a packed house at the Bell Sports Complex.
The game plan was very simple for either team. Les Canadiennes win, and they’re off to the Clarkson Cup final for the fourth time in five seasons. For the Thunder, win and they live to play another day in the third and deciding game on Sunday afternoon.
Both Erin Ambrose, who left game one early and led all Canadiennes defenders in points, and captain Marie-Philip Poulin were both out of the lineup. Markham was missing Laura Fortino and Jess Jones, who both played in game one.
The Thunder jumped out of the gate very quickly, with Jenna McParland scoring a couple of quick power play goals, and it was already 2-0 just over six minutes into the contest.
“I don’t think the defeat was necessarily the start, but rather the execution of Markham [Saturday],” said head coach Caroline Ouellette. “The special teams definitely helped them out, and we unfortunately couldn’t capitalize on our chances.”
Les Canadiennes had power play opportunities of their own as Markham got assessed four straight penalties, and despite some great chances on their special teams units, goaltender Erica Howe stood on her head, and made 16 saves in the opening period. Power plays were the difference, as Markham went 4/7 and Montreal went 0/4.
McParland completed her hat trick at the 6:46 mark of the middle frame when she was left all alone in front, with ample time, before throwing the puck up high and past Maschmeyer.
“Our mindset was to not even worry about what happened [on Friday],” said McParland following the game. “Coming into the game [Saturday], we wanted a fresh slate and get pucks on net, and [I think] that's what we did. The pucks just went my way [Saturday].”
Montreal snapped Howe’s shutout 12 seconds later when forward Hilary Knight was given a big rebound and beat Howe, for her second goal of the postseason.
Howe wound up making 40 saves in the win, Maschmeyer made 16 in the defeat.
“They’re a really good team, and I guess we need to continue the pressure and play the body on body game,” said Howe. “We’re going to take care of each other [tonight] and come back and play the same game [Sunday]. It’s playoff hockey, it isn’t going to be easy, and nobody gets a free ride, so we just got to go for it.”
With amped pressure, Montreal almost got another quick one to cut the lead to one when forward Katia Clement-Heydra had an open cage, and her backhand just missed going in the net.
Markham got their fourth power play advantage late in the period, and for the fourth time in four attempts on the night, they scored when Ella Matteucci wired a shot just under Maschmeyer’s glove, in what would eventually be the game winning goal.
The Thunder looked as if they had scored a fifth power play goal midway through the third, but in a rare CWHL moment, the goal was overturned deemed that there was goaltender interference on the play. Maschmeyer went directly to the official after the puck went in.
“Going into [Sunday] I think we just need to get a good start like we did [Saturday],” said McParland. “We know we had a few breakdowns [Saturday], but we knew [goaltender Howe] would bail us out, and she did.”
Montreal pushed on the gas to try and get back into the game, never giving up their effort, and it set the tone for a very exciting finish.
With just under two minutes left to play, and Les Canadiennes containing the puck in the Thunder zone, they pulled Maschmeyer for hopes of drawing closer.
With 1:49 left in the clock, Knight stepped in from the point and blasted a howitzer that eluded Howe’s grasp, scoring her second of the game.
Fourty-one seconds later, forward Karell Emard reduced the lead to one, jumping on a juicy rebound.
But it was too little, too late.
The Montreal team, deflated with the loss, still had a lot of positives to look at moving forward.
“We believed that we could’ve came back, and could’ve easily came back and scored three goals in a period, and we came very close,” said Ouellette. “Best case we would win, worst case, we would set the tone for [Sunday].”
The third and deciding game will be played on Sunday afternoon, again at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard. Puck drops at 1:30pm EDT. Tickets are available here, and the game will be streamed.