Clarkson Cup round-robin ends with pair of thrillers

(Tessa Bonhomme had two assists in Toronto’s OT win)

A nail-biting clash between the black and gold Boston team and the Montreal bleu, blanc et rouge squad was staged in front of several screaming hockey fans on Friday.

Based on the intensity level, it could have just as easily been the Bruins and the Canadiens.

Instead it was the Montreal Stars, squeaking out a 1-0 overtime win over the Boston Blades in Clarkson Cup action. The game result was inconsequential with both teams already having clinched a berth in to Saturday’s final to decide the Canadian Women’s Hockey League championship.

But don’t try to tell the players that it was just a tune-up game.

With the rosters stacked with Olympians from their respective home countries, the game had the same ferocity of a Canada vs. USA international matchup.

There were 17 minor penalties assessed. The official scorer kept adding “roughing”, “slashing“ and “cross-checking” to the gamesheet.

Body contact is prohibited in the CWHL. So what. Speeding is prohibited on the highway, but it still happens.

The winning goal was scored on – what else – a power-play after Boston’s Kate Buesser was sent off for hauling down Catherine Ward, who was driving towards the net with the puck. With the Stars craftily moving the puck on the 4-on-3 advantage Meghan Agosta-Marciano, the league’s Angela James Bowl winner as scoring champion, fed a cross-ice pass to Caroline Ouellette who ended the game with a one-timer past goaltender Molly Schaus.

Ouellette displayed her knack for timely goals, having scored the overtime winner to clinch last year’s Women’s World Hockey Championship for Canada against the United States.

Montreal goalie Jenny Lavigne was sensational, and also the beneficiary of some good fortune. Boston forward Jen Schoulis rang a shot off the goal post in the dying seconds of regulation time.

“Every time we face one another, it makes for fast, physical, really intense games,” said Ouellette of the two bitter rivals who will play for the holy grail of women’s hockey at 2pm at Markham Community Centre. “It was a game of desperation. People were diving for pucks. We blocked shots. I am so proud of my team. I think we can do it again, in the final game.”

In Friday’s evening game to decide third place, the game came down to the final ticks of the clock. Toronto’s Rebecca Johnston scoring with 1.8 seconds remaining in overtime to lift the Furies to a 4-3 win over Brampton. The Thunder blew a two-goal lead with the Furies scoring three consecutive goals, but Bailey Bram’s equalizer in the third period – her second of the game – forced the 4-on-4, ten-minute overtime session.

“I wasn’t sure if the puck went in on time,” said Johnston – who will join teammates Tessa Bonhomme, Natalie Spooner and Jennifer Wakefield on Team Canada at the Women’s World Championships in two weeks. “I celebrated, and the referees weren’t saying anything, so we just kind of kept going.”

Despite not having the chance to compete for the league title, Toronto coach Sommer West – a former National Women’s Hockey League champion with the now-defunct Aeros – is more than satisfied with her team’s effort. “I’ve learned a lot this season with these girls, they brought the passion back in my life. To see them go out with a smile on their face is what makes me feel really good inside. They can go home and know that they left everything here this week, and there’s nothing more that they could have done to change the outcome.”


Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca

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