The new-look Blades played their first game last night, a pre-season exhibition game against the New England U18 Stars. The oddly structured two, 25 minute period game resulted in 4-0 shutout loss for the Blades.
For a team built for speed, the Blades looked surprisingly slow through much of the first period. The Stars dominated possession and the pace of the game, allowing the Blades hardly any time in the offensive zone.
During this stretch, one of the few times the Blades were at the other end of the ice, a botched pinch in from defensemen Maggie DiMasi resulted in an odd man rush and the Stars' first goal.
Their second goal came off a defensive blunder. Goaltender Genevieve Lacasse easily stopped a shot from a quick transition play, but the rebound stayed in front of the net for what seemed like an eternity before a Stars player took it and scored easily.
"A lot of girls were puck-watching in the first," said Blades coach Brian McCloskey. "We have to protect the guts of the ice, we were backing off in the first period."
Several minutes later, the Stars scored two additional goals in quick succession. What could have been a demoralizing point for the Blades turned, instead, into a rally, with the teaming getting noticeably better afterwards.
"I was pleased with the girls, the way they stuck with it, and I thought we got better as the game went on," said McClockey.
The best chance the Blades had was just before the buzzer sounded to end the first period. Defensemen Tara Watchorn stole the puck in the neutral zone, creating a short but effective offensive zone possession. Though the Blades didn't score, it was the effort shown here that the team brought with them in the second period.
"I think there was a lot of nerves when we first started. It was our first game as a team and and there's a lot of new girls," said Watchorn. "Once we got going and realized that we can play this pace of game and we can do well and make good passes we gained a lot of confidence."
This confidence yielded the game's only power play for the Blades, off of a hooking penalty after a Stars defensemen was beat on a breakaway. They were starting to connect more, resulting in better passing and more time on offense.
Two notable standouts were DiMasi and Blades rookie, Nicole Giannino. After being involved on the first two goals, DiMasi picked it up in the second. Her and Watchorn became much more involved on offense, with DiMasi specifically carrying the puck through the neutral zone on several occasions and creating offensive pressure. Giannino was seemingly everywhere in the second period, using her speed and stick-handling skills to out maneuver the much larger Stars players.
They weren't able to score, but McCloskey and Watchorn saw the game as a learning experience. With only a handful of practices as a full team under their belt, the Blades are looking to build off this experience this week as they head to Toronto to start the season next weekend.
"I saw some good signs, some good things, it was a good test for us," said McCloskey. "That's what we needed."