HEALEY’S SHOOTOUT WINNER SENDS THUNDER TO GOLD MEDAL GAME
by Wendy Graves
STONEY CREEK, Ont. – Twenty-four hours after playing the best game of the tournament, the Edmonton Thunder and Stoney Creek Sabres had to one-up themselves.
I see your overtime and raise you a shootout.
Jessica Healey’s (Edmonton, Alta.) game-winner gave the Thunder a 2-1 win and a place in Saturday’s gold medal game.
It’s the second time Healey has scored a shootout winner at the Esso Cup. Last year in Burnaby, B.C., the defenceman also went forehand-backhand-forehand – her go-to move – to beat the North Bay Ice Boltz.
Edmonton’s Brett Campbell (Edmonton, Alta.) and Stoney Creek’s Alexa Vasko (St. Catharines, Ont.) also scored in the shootout.
It seemed too much to ask that the rematch be as good as Thursday night’s preliminary finale. And for 56:07 it wasn’t.
Healey gave her team the jump it needed when her wrist shot from the blue line found its way through traffic and beat Serena D’Angelo (Stoney Creek, Ont.) glove side.
Then for the rest of the first and into the closing minutes of the third the goalies took control of the game.
Edmonton netminder Tracie Kikuchi (Edmonton, Alta.) came up with several big stops in the second and finished with 31 saves.
“Tracie’s incredible,” said Healey, the tournament’s Top Defenceman. “She’s a brick wall, that’s what we call her in the back end. We owe the game to her.”
Amy Boucher (Edmonton, Alta.), whose speed generated scoring chances all night, came close to giving the Thunder some breathing room nine minutes into the second. It took a great save from D’Angelo to keep Boucher’s backhand wraparound from counting.
When Stoney Creek found the equalizer, with 3:53 left in the third, it brought the home crowd to its feet.
Claire Merrick’s (Oakville, Ont.) no-look shot from the near face-off dot beat Kikuchi high glove side.
Edmonton created the best chances in the extra 10-minute period, but couldn’t convert its chances.
The Thunder will play the Weyburn Gold Wings for the Esso Cup.
“For the past few years we’ve gone to the bronze medal game,” said Kikuchi, “and just for the girls that aren’t coming back next year, we really wanted to get them to that gold medal game.”
“I’m so proud of the way my team played today,” said Healey, the Thunder captain. “We’re so excited to be in the game we’ve been working toward all year.”