After a tough loss on Saturday, the Boston Blades looked to bounce back in their Dec. 6 game against the Brampton Thunder, the last in a six game series against the team. And, in many ways, they did. The only thing they didn't do was win.
"I thought it was one of our better games," said Coach Brian McCloskey after the game. "We probably generated more chances than we had previously and I thought we were in a position to potentially win the game."
Right from the opening puck drop it was apparent that the team was playing differently. The Blades did more of the little things correctly, generating more time in Brampton's zone as a result.
"Everyone was doing their jobs and winning battles, better than we heave all year," said defensemen Dru Bruns.
Though the shot total still tilted in Brampton's favor, 50-15, they were helped by yet another stellar performance by goaltender Genevieve Lacasse. It's cliched to say that a goaltender "stood on his or her head," but it's heard to describe her performance otherwise, coming up with stellar save after save to keep her team in the game.
Despite all that, there were two letdowns that, ultimately, cost the Blades the game. The first game in the initial period, where the Blades let up a power play goal, their third in the weekend. Boston started off the year with a really strong penalty kill, but have lacked in that area recently.
The other, and more significant, were two goals scored in quick succession by the Thunder in the third period. With the game tied at 1, the Blades were on the power play about halfway through the period when Brampton forward Jamie Lee Rattray found Laura Fortino, who had cheated off her assignment near the blue line. When Fortino got the pass, the only thing in front of her was open ice, and she took it all the way and scored.
It was obvious almost immediately that letting up a shorthanded goal got to the Blades.
"The girls just got down on their selves," said Blades Captain Tara Watchorn.
Less than a minute later, the Blades let up another goal on a quick transition. It wasn't the first time Boston allowed quick goals like that in the past, and it was something that several players was focused on in the locker room after the game.
"Once they score, we just have to forget about it, go back out, and not let another one in," said Blades forward Sadie St. Germain.
After that second goal, the team seemed to relax more, returning to their level of play earlier in the game. After a power play goal from Megan Myers, the Blades pressed even harder for the equalizer, but it never came. After pulling Lacasse with a minute left in the game, an empty net goal sealed the win for Brampton.
Closing the season series against an opponent 0 for 6 may be dejecting for some, but not this team.
"It's really important to keep progressing and not get down on ourselves," Burns said.
Aside from the first period of Saturday's game and a minute long stretch of Sunday's, the Blades played some of their best hockey yet. Particularly on Sunday, Boston worked hard to come back after letting up goals. After the game, Watchorn put it succinctly.
"We never quit."