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CWHL Clarkson Cup Championship: Boston vs Montreal

March 24, 2013

The two-time defending Montreal Stars met the regular season leader Boston Blades in pursuit of the Clarkson Cup, for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League championship. Fans familiar with women’s hockey will recognize many of the names suiting up for both teams.  This is where the best of North America’s women players come to continue the development of their careers.

Something that is odd to hear/see – national team players from the USA playing with national team players from Canada. How often do you hear a play started by Julie Chu (USA) to Sarah Vaillancourt (Canada) ending in a shot on goal against Genevieve Lacasse? But really, its no different from other leagues – CHL, AHL and NHL players often find themselves playing on a line with opponents from another nation!

Key to this final – Boston had a short bench due to player availability, but their coach said they weren’t going to let that dictate their play. Fine words, but still a tough go to play a fourth game in four days with only four defencemen.  A lot of tired folk in that dressing room, running on adrenalin.

And despite that seeming disadvantage, the Blades would take a 1-0 lead after the first period on an absolutely textbook tip from in front of the net. Jen Schoullis was stationed in front of the net and with both she and the defender screening Stars goalie Charline Labonté, she tipped home a perfect point shot from Kelley Steadman. Despite furious pressure on a couple of power plays, Montreal were unable to solve Lacasse.

Boston pressed again in the second period and with Hilary Knight drawing a penalty, it was Schoullis scoring again to stretch the lead to 2.  But this time, league scoring leader Meghan Agosta-Marciano would reply to draw the Stars within one.  Montreal would feed off the energy of that goal and again send waves of Canadian-National-Team fed drives at the Boston net.  They were rewarded with the tying goal, turning a  Boston giveaway on the half-boards into a shot from the slot.

The Stars would then run into penalty trouble. Despite applying a great deal of pressure while in a four on four situation, a subsequent penalty kill situation would turn into a goal for the Blades. Strangely, it had been the Stars that had the best penalty kill in the tournament coming into the championship game.  Instead, a Kelley Steadman shot would find its way past Labonté and again Boston would take the lead.

An invigorated Blades team seemed to take charge of the game. Montreal was the more disorganized team; instead of pressuring the short-handed team into tired penalties, it was the Stars that were making the mistakes.  If not for some heroics by Labonté near the of the second period, Montreal could have been down by two going into the third period.

The third period should have been a great opportunity for the Stars because, theoretically, the Blades should have been feeling the fatigue. Throughout the period, Montreal had Lacasse under siege.  The CWHL Goalie of the Year made save after fantastic save to preserve the Boston lead. Even through a period of consecutive penalty kills, including a two-man down situation with two of only four available defencemen in the box, Lacasse stood tall.

In the world of hockey, a hot goalie can ‘steal’ a game. Consider this game stolen. On the strength of a great penalty kill starting from the goalie out, the Boston Blades took advantage of the Stars’ penalty trouble to score their fourth powerplay goal. With under 2 minutes to play, Montreal became ever more desperate to solve Lacasse to no avail. The Boston Blades would seal their first Clarkson Cup championship with an empty net goal.

This game showed just how far women’s hockey has come. These players play for the love of the game, not because of the fame or any money and it shows. Kudos for a great effort and terrific game between two fierce competitors and congratulations to the Boston Blades!  I look forward to the Women’s World Hockey Championships in early April, where many of the players that participated in this game, will be seen competing for their countries in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

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