The Boston Blades defeated the Montreal Stars in the Clarkson Cup championship game on Saturday, earning their first title as Canadian Women’s Hockey League champions with a decisive 5-2 win.
A Blades team stacked with several U.S. Olympians and hopefuls for the forthcoming Women’s World Championship took advantage of some undisciplined play by the two-time defending champions, scoring 4 power-play goals. Jen Schoullis scored twice while Kelley Steadman had a natural hat trick. Both players are among 28 invitees to the American selection camp in Colorado where the final roster of twenty-three players will be announced for the world championships which start April 2 in Ottawa.
“It’s definitely the biggest game of my career with Boston,” said Steadman, a 5-foot-11 physical forward who spent several minutes of the round-robin portion of the 4-day tournament in the sin-bin before making her contributions on the scoresheet in the most important game. “We knew coming into this game we had to stay out of the penalty box. We just kept cool heads and played the puck well.”
The victory capped off a huge season for Hilary Knight, who was also named the league’s most valuable player for the regular season at the CWHL Awards Gala on Wednesday. Knight, who along with teammates Kacey Bellamy and Gigi Marvin appears to be a lock to make the United States roster, welcomed the head start in the Americans’ bid to spoil the party on Canadian soil, just like their rivals did in Burlington, Vermont last year. “It was nice to get used to playing in front of a Canadian-based crowd. I’m really excited to compete in Ottawa,” said Knight.
In the runners-up dressing room, the tournament MVP and Team Canada defenceman Catherine Ward acknowledged the disparity in specialty teams efficiency as the game’s deciding factor. Montreal did not convert on any of their 7 opportunities with the man advantage, including a pair of 5-on-3 situations. “Every time we got pressure on them, specialty teams broke that momentum. They capitalized on their power-plays and we didn’t,” said Ward who is scheduled to arrive in Ottawa for Team Canada’s pre-competition camp on Monday along with five of her Stars teammates including Meghan Agosta-Marciano and Caroline Ouellette.
Agosta-Marciano and Dominique Thibault were the only two Montreal players to beat Blades goalie Geneviève Lacasse, who, along with her counterpart Stars’ netminder Charline Labonté, was named to the Team Canada roster.
Montreal general manager Meg Hewings watched her team record an 18-5-1 mark over the regular season along with a perfect 3-0 record in the round-robin portion of the playoffs. Despite her team’s coming up short in the final game, she took pride In the 2012-13 campaign that included Agosta-Macricano earn her second consecutive scoring title and Anne Sophie Bettez take rookie of the year honours. “We had challenges, and came back from a couple of issues including a coaching change,” she said. “But I think it was really successful end of season. This is a team that enjoys playing with one another, and it’s always special to have that.”
Nearly 10,000 spectators came to Markham Centennial Arena over the course of the Clarkson Cup event.
Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca
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