The Worcester Blades dropped their home opener in a tight game against the Toronto Furies by a score of 2-1 on Saturday afternoon.
A number of notable Worcester city officials and ice hockey patrons helped dropped the puck for the Blades’ first game in the city. These included Dr. Charles Steinberg from the Worcester Red Sox, Councilor Sandy Merocarlson, as well as Worcester Railers and Worcester Ice Center owner Cliff Rucker and Railers President Mike Myers.
Special shoutout to Derek Alfama, Dr. Charles Steinberg of the Worcester Red Sox, Councilor Sandy Merocarlson, Mike Myers of the Worcester Railers, and Coach Paul Kennedy for helping us out with pregame festivities! #WooBlades pic.twitter.com/Gf3fDmuBiq
— Worcester Blades (@WorcesterCWHL) October 20, 2018
Mariah Fujimagari got the start in net for the Blades after coming off a 14 save performance against Markham last weekend. Elaine Chuli started for the Furies after making 30 saves in a loss against Vanke.
The Blades started off the game having to kill an early penalty three minutes in after Alexis Miller was called for a delay of game.
Both teams traded chances but Toronto managed to find the back of the net first at 7:58 off a close up, second chance opportunity. Fujimagari made the initial stop on Shannon Stewart’s shot, but with the puck squeaking by and sitting on the line, Natalie Spooner buried it to get the Furies on the board.
Toronto goal scored by Natalie Spooner. 1-0 with 11:30 remaining in the first #WORvsTOR
— Worcester Blades (@WorcesterCWHL) October 20, 2018
The Blades and Furies traded power play opportunities over the remainder of the period, with each team going to the box twice. Worcester’s Kaitlin Spurling was called for tripping at 8:30 and Taryn Harris for elbowing at 15:15. Toronto’s Sarah Nurse was sent to the box for holding at 11:08 and Jordan Hampton for hooking at 17:09. However, both teams were able to hunker down and kill the penalties with relatively little offensive scoring chances.
After one, the score was 1-0 Toronto with the Furies leading shots on goal, 10-6.
The Blades opened the second period with a bit of offensive zone time, spending about a minute in the Furies’ zone. However, Toronto matched that pressure with their own extended zone time with over a minute themselves, during which Fujimagari made a great save off a redirected point shot.
Five minutes in, Morgan Turner had a nice scoring chance in the slot, but the shot was deflected and tumbled up and over the net.
Meghan Grieves followed up two minutes later with another scoring chance on the wraparound, but Chuli made the post-to-post move to prevent it.
Miller was called for her second penalty of the game at 8:58 for checking, but the Furies’ power play was quickly negated. Nurse took a second penalty for hooking only 23 seconds later, leading to a minute and a half of 4-on-4 time. Worcester was unable to make use of the quick 23 second powerplay.
Casey Stathopolous had a nice redirection chance in the slot about 12 minutes in, but Chuli once again had the solid save.
Another 4-on-4 opportunity emerged with about 5 minutes left in the period, as Meghan Spurling was called for interference at13:47 and Furies’ Mellissa Channell for checking at 14:49. The powerplay chances each team saw before and after the 4-on-4 would end with the score remaining the same.
Towards the end of the period, Fujimagari made a big save with 2:20 left as the puck was in air near the crease, but she was able to clear it out of danger.
No score change after two, as both teams picked up the shooting and scoring chances. 17 shots for Toronto, totaling 27 and 9 shots for Worcester, totaling 15.
Two minutes into the third, the Blades started off with a great offensive chance as Erin Kickham shot from the high slot, but couldn’t convert. Toronto quickly countered on the transition with a two-on-one rush, but Fujimagari held strong.
The Blades tied the game as Stathopolous scored at 5:19, walking into the slot after the defender moved off. Chuli hesitated and Stathopolous beat her to get her second goal of the season. Kaitlin Spurling assisted on the goal.
Shortly after, Toronto countered with another two-on-one rush, but again Fujimagari made the save to maintain the tie.
The Blades and Furies spent the next minutes trading rushes; both seemed to have an extra pep in their step after the game became tied and the intensity built up.
The Furies managed to retake the lead at 13:23 as Spooner scored her second of the game. Spooner received the pass after a turnover, and walked in 1-on-0 on Fujimagari, making a left-right deke to beat her. Channell assisted on the goal.
Fujimagari kept her team within striking distance, making saves on multiple slot chances late in the period. She would vacate the net in the last minute of the game, but the Blades were unable to score with the extra skater.
2-1 was the final score with no penalties occurring in the third period as Toronto shot another 17 and Worcester 9, totaling 44 for the Furies and 24 for the Blades. Fujimagari finished the game with 42 saves and Chuli with 23.
Third Star – Shannon Stewart (Toronto forward)
Second Star – Mariah Fujimagari (Worcester goaltender)
First Star – Natalie Spooner (Toronto forward)
Casey Stathopolous talked post game about playing in Worcester, saying she “loves the city, having played last year we’ve been hearing about it a lot, so we’re ready to play here.”
She went on to discuss her second goal of the season.
“At that point there’d been some frustration and we had to get something going,” Stathopoulos stated. “I saw the opportunity with my line and when [Chuli] went down and hesitated, I shot my shot.”
She concluded with what her team needs to do on Sunday, looking for their first win of the season.
“Grind in and out, take it to them,” she said.
The Blades take on the Furies in Game two tomorrow at the Fidelity Bank Worcester Ice Center, with puck drop at 2:10 pm. Tickets are available here as well as at the door.
To stay up to date with this weekend’s game coverage, be sure to follow the Blades on Twitter @WorcesterCWHL.
Zach Bamberger is a Communications Intern for the Worcester Blades. All media requests and inquiries should be sent to Merisa Boyd, Director of Communications, at [email protected].