The Boston Blades opened their season back on October 18, but then left us hanging for almost a month.
It wasn't for a bad reason, however. Part of the reason for the long break was the Four Nations Cup, an annual tournament of the national women's teams of Canada, the United States, Finland, and Sweden. This year, in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada won the gold medal for the second year running. The Blades' roster boasts seven participants from the Four Nations Cup. Two (Tara Watchorn and Geneviève Lacasse) were on the gold-medal-winning squad for Canada. Kacey Bellamy, Brianna Decker, Alyssa Gagliardi, Hilary Knight, and Monique Lamoureux won silver with Team USA. Decker (2G 1A) and Knight (3G) each had 3 points in the tournament. Both scored in the gold medal game. Knight's tally was the unassisted go-ahead goal until 17:49 of the third period , when Canada's Jennifer Wakefield tied it up and sent the game to a shootout. Canada won on a single goal from Cornell University's Brianne Jenner.
On November 15, a week after the Four Nations Cup came to a close, the Blades dropped the puck for their home opener at the Clark Athletic Center at UMass Boston. Their opponent: The Toronto Furies, who defeated the Blades 1-0 in overtime back on March 22nd to capture their first Clarkson Cup championship. (The Clarkson Cup is played in a round robin format with a single game for the championship--a dramatic finish to the tournament is often guaranteed.) For the Blades, it was their inaugural match at UMass, having played at Merrimack the previous season.
11/15/14, Game 2, Toronto Furies @ Boston Blades: Blades 6 Furies 2
It started out as a close-checking game. Both teams, obviously, could expect some rust after such a long break from playing together, but instead of looking sluggish, they plugged away along the boards. Shots were few early on, with the Blades' Lacasse and the Furies' Christina Kessler looking alert, but not too busy.
It didn't take long for the Blades to get rolling, however, and Jillian Dempsey scored her first of the night from Fratkin and Knight at 6:43. The rest of the period was fairly even, though the Blades had a 9-4 advantage in shots.
The second period was a rough one for the Furies' defense as the Blades began to get in tight and pile shots on Kessler, which led to the Blades' second goal by Janine Weber. After taking a 2-0 lead, the Blades didn't stop coming, and after a Monique Lamoureux wraparound chance dislodged the net, the Furies called a timeout. A few shifts later, though, Dempsey took the puck from her own end and skated beautifully up ice with it, releasing a quick shot for an unassisted goal that gave the Blades a 3-0 lead.
Lacasse allowed her first goal of the season when the Furies got their first and only power play of the game. Mallory Deluce scored a mere 7 seconds into the penalty to bring the score to 3-1. The Blades were quick to get one back when Rachel Llanes had a 2 on 1 and elected to shoot instead of pass, catching Kessler off guard and increasing the lead to 4-1.
The Blades added another goal just a minute and a half later, when the puck fluttered in front of the net and Dempsey was able to poke it into the net to complete her hat trick.
"It was a great feed by Knighter," Dempsey said of Hilary Knight's pass. "She just kinda saw the seam, and fed it to me, and I just got a piece of it."
Kessler still hung in there with the flurry of shots, making several great saves, including a beautiful glove save on Llanes. But the second period was pure dominance by Boston, who outshot the Furies 17-9. Toronto found some life towards the end of the period and put some pressure on Lacasse, but she was equal to every shot.
To start the third, the Furies switched netminders, putting Sami Jo Small in the cage. It was a shaky start; she came out to challenge Kacey Bellamy on a breakaway but the puck ended up behind the net, with her having fallen down almost at the top of the circles. The Blades couldn't bring the puck in front on that sequence, however.
The Blades had a chance to increase their lead again after being granted a power play at 14:39, but they failed to score. Lacasse made a sparkling save on a breakaway shortly after the penalty expired, only to give up a goal seconds later to Toronto's Jenelle Kohanchuk, who released a wicked wrist shot from the left circle. The score was 5-2 with just three minutes remaining.
With 1:08 left, Small got stuck on the wrong side of the net and Lamoureux was able to slide the puck in. The score would stay at 6-2, and the Blades won having fired 39 shots at the Furies' goal.
"I think we were just really amped up and ready to go because it's been a long time since we've had some games," Dempsey said. "Obviously, the last time we played these guys, it was the Clarkson Cup, and it didn't really go the way that we had hoped. So we had a little bit of unfinished business, we wanted to come back and make a statement." It definitely was a statement game, and that message would carry over the following day.
11/16/14, Game 3, Toronto Furies @ Boston Blades: Blades 5 Furies 2
The teams had a quick turnaround to the second game of their weekend series, which began shortly after 12:30pm on Sunday. Sami Jo Small started in goal for the Furies, while the Blades went with Brittany Ott.
Meghan Duggan was welcomed back to the Blades by being assessed a penalty at 3:37 of the first period. Ott was strong early, however, and the Blades killed it. After the PK, the Blades rushed back up ice. Kayleigh Fratkin took a pass from captain Jessica Koizumi behind the net and opened the scoring once her slapshot found its way behind Small.
Small stayed busy after the goal, just barely making a save after a few chaotic moments in her crease. Then, Blake Bolden carried the puck in and started a bit of a cycle, culminating in a goal from Rachel Llanes, who got the puck in front of the net and put it five hole.
In a 4-on-4 situation, the Furies cut the lead in half by scoring quickly off the faceoff, similar to a power play goal they scored the previous night. This time, Caroline Prevost got the goal.
Also just as they had the previous night, the Furies entered the second period only down by a goal, but it seemed like their fate might be changing. They killed a Blades power play and shortly thereafter, Julie Allen tied the game with an unassisted goal that went top shelf on Ott. The Furies' celebration was explosive, with a leaping group hug that almost knocked Allen to the ice, and loud screaming from the bench that lasted well past the next faceoff.
Having lost their lead, however, the Blades put the pressure back on. After a blast from the point by Alyssa Gagliardi, Llanes was able to put in the ensuing rebound after a scramble in front of the net.
It didn't take long for Tara Watchorn to give the Blades the 2-goal advantage again, blasting one past Small from the top of the left circle. The whole second period was a messy affair, with both teams getting away with a fair amount of interference and heavy hitting.
The Furies were not to be deterred heading into the third down 2 goals. They kept the Blades in their own end early and managed to draw a penalty, but were unsuccessful on the power play. Small made a series of big saves to keep them within 2, including one on Hilary Knight who was all alone in front and another on a big slapshot by Duggan. The Blades went on the power play late, however, and finally erased Toronto's hope of a comeback when Dempsey made it 5-2.
Toronto finished with 23 shots, while the Blades had 40. On the weekend series, the Blades held a 79-40 shot advantage, which fueled much of their success; they never hung back, even with a significant lead. In Sunday's game, the Furies also went 0-4 on the power play, failing to capitalize on the advantage when they could have made the game much closer. Overall, the Blades' showing so far this season has been incredibly strong, with a complete team effort at both ends of the ice.
"I think our whole team is having fun," Llanes said after the game. "We got the lead, we held it, and we finished out the game strong."
The Blades return to the ice next Saturday and Sunday with another weekend series against the Montréal Stars, also at the Clark Athletic Center.