With all 24 of their games played, the Toronto Furies have locked in fourth place in the CWHL, a sure shot at facing the Calgary Inferno in the first round of the Clarkson Cup championship. This marks the third consecutive season that Toronto will be the last team into the playoffs, though this is their strongest showing since winning the Clarkson Cup in 2014.
After battling to six wins in the 2015-16 season, Toronto went from 14 points in the standings to 22, showing considerable growth. A lot of their success could be attributed to their offseason acquisitions – the Furies drafted very well, and the team really came together quickly, which gave them an advantage in the first half of the season.
Toronto overachieved through the first 12 games. Pundits predicted that Toronto would battle Boston for the basement, but that really wasn’t the case — the Furies were able to steal points from both top table teams, Calgary and Les Canadiennes de Montreal, through the season. They held tightly to third place through mid-January, when provincial rivals the Brampton Thunder were able to overtake them.
Of course, the team was led by team captain, league All-Star, and world phenom Natalie Spooner. She was joined by veteran Kelly Terry among the team’s top contributors. The Furies got fantastic goaltending for much of the season from their tandem of Christina Kessler and Sonja van der Bliek, with each posting just a 2.20 goals against average.
Their surprising surge in the beginning of the year wasn’t the only ace Toronto had up their sleeves. The Furies freshwomen have put in an incredible season, and it is their play above all else that has boosted Toronto into serious contention.
Spooner leads the team in points with 20, but second is first year forward Michela Cava. The Minnesota-Duluth graduate was chosen twelfth overall, and has had a tremendous impact on the team. As reported by FanRag Sports in November, Cava was unexpectedly leading all rookies in scoring and was making a strong push for rookie of the year.
She finished the season third in the league among rookies, but her special teams play stands out from the pack – she tied for most power play goals, assists, and points, and she led the Furies in PP goals and points.
— Toronto Furies (@TorontoCWHL) February 11, 2017
Joining Cava were Toronto’s fantastic rookie defenders. Renata Fast and Carlee Campbell tied for second in points and Erin Ambrose finished in third. Ambrose led freshman defensemen in assists, and Fast is second in goals, even adding a power play goal and netting a short handed goal.
Jenna Dingeldein, who was drafted by the Buffalo Beauts of the NWHL, elected to go to her hometown instead, and put up a good year in Toronto. Two of her four goals were scored on the power play and she even potted a game winner. Dingeldein was one of only five CWHL rookies to do so.
The 2016 draft featured a number of Hockey Canada standouts and NCAA stars. All of the CWHL teams improved through the draft, but none of the draftees had the impact that the Furies’ first year players did.
Toronto rookies combined for 15 of the team’s 52 goals. The first year stars shouldered their biggest work load when Team Canada called upon Toronto’s veteran players, and came out on top, boosting the team to their best finish since its Cup win in 2014.
The Furies will have their work cut out for them in the first round, facing a red-hot Calgary team. Anything can happen in a three game playoff, and if Toronto’s first year players can continue to dominate, they may find themselves in a position no one could have predicted — in the Clarkson Cup Final.