Six in Five: Toronto stays undefeated at home

Toronto’s opening weekend has everything: a two-game win streak, a roster limit controversy and a six-year-old polar bear running around waving a giant flag.

The Toronto Six came out of this past weekend on top, taking both the Saturday and Sunday games by a score of 3-2.

Both games were high-flying offensive showdowns with just about constant mind-blowing saves from both goaltenders thrown in for good measure.

If you didn’t see the games or you need a refresher, here are five points that you can read in five minutes about the Six’s opening weekend.

1. Game Summaries

November 5

The Six’s power play unit was tested early on Saturday when Patti Marshall got sent to the box for a high sticking minor. Minnesota managed to kill that one, but weren’t so fortunate a little over 10 minutes later. Sydney Baldwin headed to the box for tripping, and 14 seconds later, the Six were up 1-0. They had opted to send out a PP unit with Kati Tabin quarterbacking Dominika Laskova, Shiann Darkangelo, Brittany Howard, and Tereza Vanisova. Tabin set things up from the blue line, passing to Laskova who hit Howard with a perfectly placed cross-ice pass that left Leveille scrambling.

Seeing Leveille and Chuli as the starters, it wouldn’t have been wrong to expect a low scoring battle of the goalies. That turned out not to be the case in the second. Shiann Darkangelo tripped up a Whitecap and headed to the box early in the second, giving Sidney Morin the chance to tie things up. With the game tied at one, the Whitecaps pulled ahead with a goal from Natalie Snodgrass.

Darkangelo tied it up again a little over halfway through the third off of assists from Howard and Emma Woods. Neither team could crack the other’s goaltending, so the game went to OT. The Six sent out a combination of Darkangelo, Howard and Tabin. Tabin once again set up Brittany Howard, carrying the puck into the offensive zone and then flipping it up to Howard, who buried it for the win.

November 6

The second game was a similar story, both Chuli and Leveille made some unreal saves while the teams in front of them focused almost entirely on scoring.

Leah Lum put her name on the scoresheet for the first time to put the Six up 1-0 before the halfway mark of the first. Brittany Howard’s goal scoring streak continued less than a minute later to put them up 2-1. Liz Schepers cut Toronto’s lead in half in the dying minutes of the opening frame.

Minnesota got to work in the second, trying to tie things up and claim the lead. It looked like the tide had shifted in their favour for a few brief moments when Natalie Snodgrass connected with Ashleigh Brykaliuk for the game tying goal at 1:23 in the second. Saroya Tinker scored a very Saroya Tinker goal (absolutely jacked it in from the point), and Toronto regained the lead.

Tinker’s goal would be the game winner as neither team found the back of the net in the third.

2. Too many players on the bench

In somewhat strange news, it was announced before the game, that head coach Geraldine Heaney would serve a one-game suspension after exceeding the league roster limit of 20 active players by dressing 21 the day before.

The PHF has an upper roster limit of 20 players. The official gamesheet from November 5th shows that Toronto dressed and submitted 21. Taylor Davison was scratched on the 6th, bringing the roster down to 20 players.

The game went on with assistant coaches Kevin Greco and Jessica Turi behind the benches, while the PHF will open a more extensive review later this week to determine what further action is necessary, if any.

3. D-Zone room for improvement

It’s the same situation that the Six have been in pretty much since the beginning: their offense is phenomenal, but they can scramble in their own end a little too often.

“We had a lot of blocked shots, so that was creating a lot of turnovers and that was giving the other team a lot of chances as well,” Heaney said. “I think we just need to work a little bit more on out D-Zone recovery. That’s the hard part. The offensive part? They’re all good with that, but it’s just that structure where we need to be a little bit better.”

4. Offense is gonna be just fine

It’s no secret that Toronto’s offense took a big hit when Mikyla Grant-Mentis went back to Buffalo. When the Six got onto the ice this weekend though, it didn’t seem like there was a massive gap in the offense at all. Brittany Howard slotted into the first line like she’d always been there, and Darkangelo was as dangerous as she’s always been. Tabin’s going to be a problem for other teams if she stays quarterbacking the power play like she did this weekend.

It’s too small of a sample size to draw any grand sweeping conclusions, but it’s looking like Toronto has somehow managed to get better in spite of losing their MVP.

5. Sold out crowd for the Opener

The Six’s home opener was a sell out, thanks largely in part to their season long partner, Athleta. The activewear company bought out the entire game, meaning that fans were able to claim their tickets at no cost.

“Not to talk about the past, but it’s been a while since we were able to play in front of fans here at home. So it’s super exciting,” said Darkangelo after the home opener.

There was a girls’ hockey tournament happening on different ice pads at Canlan during the Toronto Six game. Parents and hockey players alike popped into the restaurant overlooking the Six’s home rink to see what was happening on the big ice. The fans in the stands were dialled in, sitting on the edge of their seats for every scoring opportunity and erupting into cheers when the puck finally did go in.

“I think it was awesome. I think management did a great job and promoting the first game of the season. I couldn’t really see behind the me from the bench, but just the noise when there were so many scoring chances and just misses, the noise of the crowd was great. It sounded like a really good atmosphere,” Heaney said.

Team president Sami-Jo Small has been saying since the beginning that creating a fun and engaging atmosphere is a priority for her, and Saturday’s home opener seemed like the beginning of that.

Kids were running around the concourse after the game, excitedly gathering their friends to come meet the Six players who were signing autographs by the entrance. Others made sure to get a picture with Kipling, the Six’s newly introduced (and definitely not at all terrifying) mascot.

+1 Coming Up…

The Toronto Six will have a week off before playing the Metropolitan Riveters at American Dream on November 19th and 20th. Both games can be watched on ESPN+ in America, or on TSN Direct in Canada.