Monday, 2 December 2013

Laura McIntosh on fire as her shootout heroics provide win for Brampton

One of the most underrated players in the CWHL, the 2013-14 season may prove to be Laura McIntosh’s coming out party. On four separate occasions, she proved to be the difference as Brampton edged the Montreal Stars by a 3-2 tally on December 1.

The fans at Brampton’s Century Gardens were spoiled by McIntosh’s sterling performance. Every time that Montreal would take the lead, McIntosh was the one who would bring Brampton back into the game.
Despite the fact that the Stars have close to a dozen rookies on the roster, the club outshot Brampton by a convincing 40-24 advantage. Brampton’s rookie goatlender Sonja van der Bliek displayed great poise in a hotly contested game.

It was also a game that featured two other special milestones. Brampton's Lindsay Vine appeared in her 150th career game in CWHL play, making her only the sixth player to reach the milestone. In addition, CWHL co-founder Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux logged the 99th point of her career, inching ever so closer to the fabled century mark.

With Andie LeDonne sitting in the penalty box, Dominique Thibault scored the first goal of the game on a power play. Although Brampton played the rest of the first without a penalty, the period would expire with the club facing a 1-0 deficit.

McIntosh would log her first goal of the season on a power play to even the score. Former McGill legend Stacie Tardif served a delay of game penalty upon which Brampton would capitalize. With assists going to Ashley Pendleton and Jana Head, the leading scorer among all active CWHL players, McIntosh would spoil Meghan Corley-Byrne’s hopes for a shutout. As Corley-Byrne shutout Brampton the night before in her CWHL debut, a second consecutive shutout would have been nothing short of historic.

Cathy Chartrand, the CWHL’s defensive scoring leader in 2012-13, reclaimed the lead for Montreal on a short-handed tally with less than two minutes remaining. Outshot 13-3 in the second, Brampton would head into intermission trailing 2-1.

In a third period that had no penalties, McIntosh and her magical performance would turn the tide. At the 11:27 mark of the third, Pendleton and rookie star Danielle Skirrow earned the assist as McIntosh tied the score at 2 apiece. With van der Bliek stopping 10 Montreal shots, Brampton’s strong third period play forced overtime.

While the overtime frame did not resolve anything, McIntosh was not finished yet. The shootout would prove to be the finest moment of McIntosh’s budding CWHL career. Shooting first for Brampton, she buried the puck past Corley-Byrne for the 1-0 advantage. While Jana Head and Danielle Skirrow were unable to score, Montreal veteran defender Alyssa Cecere would provide the dramatics.

As the last shooter for Montreal, she buried the puck past van der Bliek to the roar of the Stars bench. Sarah Vaillancourt would shoot again for Montreal (she was their first skater in the initial shootout round), yet the 2010 gold medalist could not put the biscuit in the basket. Going back out on the ice was McIntosh and the hot hand would prevail again as Brampton is one point out of second place.

It would come as no surprise to those in attendance when McIntosh earned the game’s first star, followed by van der Bliek who was given the second star. Although McIntosh only played in her fourth game of the season, her scoring touch certainly returned at the right time.

During her solid rookie campaign in 2012-13, she ranked third in scoring, behind only Jayna Hefford and Gillian Apps. Although rookie of the year honors eluded her, she established herself as a consistent player with great playmaking abilities. In the games where she logged a point during her rookie season, Brampton went 8-7-1. Furthermore, any multi-point effort resulted in a 3-1-1 mark for the club.

Considering the absence of Apps, Hefford, Vicki Bendus and Bailey Bram to Canada’s centralization camp, McIntosh has the talent and skill to be the go-to player this season on Brampton’s offense. Should Brampton have any hopes of not missing the postseason for the first time in CWHL history, they will certainly depend on the hot hand of McIntosh.  

Image obtained from Brampton CWHL Facebook page. McIntosh (left) and van der Bliek all smiles after being named First and Second Star of the Game. 

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