The Montreal Stars won their first home game of the season in their third attempt, a dominating 4-0 win over the defending Clarkson Cup champion Toronto Furies.
Charline Labonte made 13 saves for the shutout and Montreal got goals from Laurianne Rougeau, Julie Chu, Noemie Marin and Stacie Tardif in the win.
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Rougeau scored just 2:36 into the game on a wrist shot that beat Toronto goaltender Christina Kessler. Chu put home a backhand on the power play and less than nine minutes into the opening frame, the Stars had a 2-0 lead. A lead they had the day before before Toronto scored three unanswered goals on their way to a shootout win.
They weren’t about to let the lead slip away again.
“We talked in between periods that we wanted to put them away and not give them any momentum,” said Stars forward Caroline Ouellette, who had two assists in the win. “Yesterday, they were able to come back so tonight we wanted to make sure we would be in control of the whole game and I think we did that very well.”
“The biggest difference was limiting our turnovers,” Rougeau said. “Yesterday we had a lot of turnovers and they capitalized on them. Today, we took care of the puck and put it in deep and took care of our end and blocked a lot of shots.”
Marin’s goal early in the second period put the Stars up 3-0, but the Furies still had a chance to get themselves back in the game. Following penalties to Virginie Bouetz-Andrieu and Ouellette, Toronto had a minute-long 5-on-3 advantage. However, the trio of Chu, Marin and captain Cathy Chartrand forced Toronto to move the puck around.
Toronto had scoring chances, but missed the net and didn’t really test Labonte.
“I had so much work to do but they never hit the net,” Labonte said. “I was working so hard that I was hoping it would at least hit me but they were so close to the net, we were lucky that they missed the net and our players in front blocked so many shots and did such a good job so it made it easy for me.”
The win secured a three-point weekend for the Stars, who lost in a shootout to Toronto on Saturday night. With the three points, the Stars move into second place in the league with 11 points. However, every other team has games in hand on the Stars. However, only three of the Stars eight games they have played have been at home (plus the two forfeits in Boston).
The CWHL announced that Montreal received two 1-0 wins in the games that Boston cancelled last week due to a “player eligibility” issue, according to their website.
“If you look at the standings, we’re all close,” Rougeau said. “It’s important to get the win every game. We were disappointed to get one point yesterday, but we’re happy with 3 points out of four and to get our first win in front of our fans.”
The Stars, who only lost two games in last year’s regular season, are in a much tougher fight this season. Of the five teams in the league, four make the playoffs.
“I think it’s incredible how strong the five teams are,” Ouellette said. “On any given night, any team can win. [Saturday night], Brampton beat Boston and that’s great. We never used to have five such strong teams and I think that’s the best thing that can happen for our league.”