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Hockey Tonk Women Give Me The Hockey Tonk Blues

This is something we’re hopefully going to do regularly, but our friend Cyndi B drops in to update all on what’s going on with the NWHL and CWL. This is from yesterday’s C.I. program. 

NWHL

BUF 4 – BOS 3 (OT)

Boston dug in early in this one with a 2-0 lead, but Buffalo’s Hailey Browne tied it up with a goal in the middle of the first and another early in the second. Browne also assisted on Devon Skeats’s go-ahead goal in the third, but with five minutes to go Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker tied it up again. Buffalo went into overtime riding a 4-on-3 advantage, Megan Bozek got the power play goal, and that was the end of that.

Many years ago, in October 2015, I went to Buffalo to watch these two teams open their inaugural seasons against each other. Back then, it was an easy and common assumption that the Pride were going to be the juggernauts steamrolling the rest of the league; not only was their roster heavy on USWNT players, many had hopped leagues from the CWHL’s Boston Blades and had history together in pro hockey as well. In any brand-new league, it was inevitable that the one team of women who already knew each other would have an advantage. As an event it was a great place to be live; as a hockey game…well, there was a very visible difference in level of play.

This weekend looked nothing like that. This was a matchup between two professional, alarmingly good teams, and no one watching should have doubted that.

From the viewers’ end, an advantage to a new league with only four teams is that it’s easy to follow as teams grow into themselves. (This was the fifth of six games between the Pride and Beauts this season.) Buffalo may have stumbled out of the gate–they’re still only 2-7-2–but the quality of their game is grinding upwards with impressive consistency. They started out getting creamed, and then losing by narrow margins or sheer bad luck, and then scattering some wins in there. If ever there was a team winning or near-winning games by sheer force of will, it’s probably the Beauts right now, and I would be surprised if their record in the second half of the season looks much like their first half.

CTW 6 – NYR 1

Most talk about this game has been about the injury to Packer and subsequent line brawl. The actual game was…also unfortunate. Sure, the Whale were undefeated until last week, but the Riveters looked like the fumbling team they were in October, and by now we know they’re capable of much better. Weber and Belyakova, who had the Riveters’ only goal, were have been standouts for New York lately; Shiann Darkangelo scored a hat trick, the first in the Whale’s history.

CWHL

MON 4 – BOS 0

MON 7 – BOS 0

As a sort-of-rematch of the Winter Classic, these games were well hyped (despite the NHL’s best efforts) and extremely well-attended. The Blades aren’t the Pride, though (the Pride, again, bearing a remarkable resemblance to last season’s Cup-winning Blades) and Lacasse is turning herself inside out while the team in front of her takes a gap year to find itself. She saved 51/55 shots on Saturday and 50/57 shots on Sunday, while Labonté saved 26/26–total, all weekend. Won’t someone give the poor woman something to do before she withers away?

BRM 3 – TOR 0

BRM 5 – TOR 4

Saturday’s game was a clean Brampton win–each team spent 10 minutes on the kill, but both PKs were perfect. Penalties did Brampton some damage the next day, though; shorthanded for nearly a third of Sunday’s game, the Thunder were lucky to see only two goals from the Furies’ power play, both scored by Carolyne Prevost. Sunday was much more even overall, a good sign for the 4-11-1 Furies; there was never more than a one-goal difference either way, and they held a 3-2 lead for a bit, but the Thunder came back to win and sweep the weekend.

EXHIBITION

BOS (NWHL) 1 – 1 MON (CWHL)

In an unexpected and generous move, the NHL allowed the Bruins’ and Habs’ corresponding NWHL and CWHL teams to play a 25-minute running-clock exhibition without broadcasting or promoting the game, teams, or players in any way. The Canadiennes’ coaching staff guest-starred Guy Lafleur, which was a cool thing I’m sure some of us would have liked to know in advance. I was technically watching, but it’s difficult to say much about a game when I was only able to watch via Periscope from someone’s iPad in the nosebleeds. Strangely, there is plenty of video of this game; it was on the scoreboards during play, and it’s suddenly showing up on television now, so everyone can gawk at Denna Laing’s injury.

The NHL was so uninvested in promoting this event that they didn’t tell anyone that one of the most famous NHL players in history was involved. They were that uninvested and yet let it go ahead when their own players said the ice was dangerous, and then suddenly opened the floodgates of public sympathy when the shit ice caused a severe life-altering injury. What a condescending headpat of an “event,” from start to finish.

Anyway, contrary to popular belief, actual hockey was played here. tThe game was well-balanced and speedy, featuring many veterans of last spring’s Boston/Montreal Clarkson Cup final. It came out to a tie, with goals from the Canadiennes’ Kim Deschenes in the first half and the Pride’s Blake Bolden in the second. The only penalty was assessed to Marie-Philip Poulin, which is not so much a punishment for her as a blessing on the penalty box.

Players at this game were insured to the fullest extent possible, but since American health care is what it is, you can help out Denna Laing and her family at http://www.dennalaing.org/ .

BUF (NWHL) 3 – 2 U18 USWNT

MON (CWHL) 5 – 4 U18 CWNT (SO)

The U18 Women’s Championships start this coming Friday the 8th. In advance, team Canada got to scrimmage against the Canadiennes (featuring golden goal scorer Poulin) and team USA against the Beauts (featuring USA captain Duggan). Team USA got into a 3-1 hole against Buffalo, and weren’t quite able to get out despite a heroic last-minute goal by Taylor Heise. Team Canada started stronger, up to a 4-1 lead by early in the third, but Montreal scored three in a row to tie up the game and ultimately win 5-4 in the shootout.

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