What a game.
Both the Toronto Furies and the Boston Blades started out tentative. Toronto had a slight edge in shots in the first, and managed just a little more cycling in Boston’s zone than vice versa, but overall, there were a lot of missed passes and fumbling plays in the neutral zone. I got the feeling, watching, that both teams were waiting for the other to break out. Natalie Spooner was by far the most noticeable player – yes, in spite of Knight and Stack being heavily used on Boston’s top line. I said on Twitter that I don’t think Spooner ever bothers even entering the zone without possession. She’s an incredibly dynamic force. Buesser took a stupid penalty, but Toronto failed to capitalize; Boston also had a weak power play, spending more time fishing the puck out of their own zone than putting shots on Toronto’s net. Late in the period, Kelli Stack intercepted a pass right in front of Kessler, but Kessler kept her from being able to elevate, and the game stayed 0-0.
The second period was a lot more active, with both teams being a lot less tentative. Toronto controlled play much more early on, cycling and putting shots on Ott. Things settled down midway through the second period, but play picked up again towards the end of the period, with both teams getting chances deep in the zone. Kessler and Ott were by far the most outstanding players on the ice, but Koizumi was putting in hard work for Boston, and Bonhomme was creating chances for Toronto. It’s worth noting that Boston tried to put a lot of pucks on Kessler from the point, which was, obviously, not effective. Play was also focused quite a bit on the boards, with both teams doing their share of dumping and chasing, and passing along the boards.
Ott had be sharp early in the third, with Toronto again coming roaring out of the gate. Boston got a power play on a weak Bonhomme interference call, but they didn’t do much of it. The story of Boston this game was looking for the perfect play, and not finding it. Stack and Knight in particular were not quite connecting; passes would be just a bit too far ahead or behind, or Boston would lose the puck at the blue line. Though it didn’t show on the scoreboard, Toronto disrupted Boston’s usual style of play to a remarkable degree. Boston couldn’t steamroll them, and Toronto took away the space to make plays that Boston’s used to having. Boston actually had to take a tripping penalty in the third, Naslund hauling down a Toronto player on a breakaway. Of course, soon after that, Hilary Knight got a breakaway in the other direction, but Kessler absolutely stoned her. Toronto got a late power play, but nothing came of it, and the game went to overtime.
But OT didn’t take long. Thirty-three seconds in, Smith put a shot on net, Spooner tipped it, and the Furies won their first Clarkson Cup ever, 1-0.
More casually than an actual recap: damn, what a game. The CWHL generally isn’t the same level as the Olympics, and I’m not going to pretend it is. There’s more on the line in the Olympics, and the national teams are better funded. But the Clarkson Cup is the best of CWHl play, and the best of CWHL play is pretty damn good. Prevost was outstanding (and part of that OT goal); Ott, Kesser, Spooner, Bolden, and Knight were all outstanding. There are more players than that who contributed and had their moments to shine. Overall, it was just a great game of hockey to watch, and I’m glad I got to see it live. Last year’s Clarkson Cup game was televised late on TSN2 but not streamed anywhere, and I’m pretty sure the streaming this year is due to pressure from fans to have a way to watch it live. And it was definitely worth it. Tense hockey, great opportunities at both ends, evenly matched teams, and a dramatic, historic finish. What more could you want?
We’ll be back tomorrow with coverage of the women’s NCAA final. Until then, rest on your laurels, Furies. You earned it.