The Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) is set to host the eighth edition of the Clarkson Cup, the ultimate prize in women’s hockey this weekend as the top two teams in the league are set to clash this Sunday at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ont.
— John Bartlett (@BartsBytes) March 8, 2016
The 2016 Clarkson Cup features quite literally the two best teams in the CWHL. Both Montreal and Calgary have consistently been at the top of the five-team standings throughout the 2015-16 campaign, and now meet in the championship game—Aaron Sorkin couldn’t have written a better storyline.
Les Canadiennes de Montréal ended the CWHL regular season in the top spot with an overall record of 20-3 in addition to one shootout win, good enough for 42 points through 24 games.
Les Canadiennes knocked off Canadian hockey icon Natalie Spooner’s fourth-ranked Toronto Furies in the 2016 Clarkson Cup playoffs in a two-game sweep by winning Game 1, 5-1, on Feb. 26.
Montreal cemented their spot in the championship with a 7-1 Game 2 victory the following day.
The Calgary Inferno ended the 2015-16 season in the two spot with a 16-6-1-1 record with 34 points through 24 games to their credit.
While there’s been a pretty big gap when it comes to points between the top two teams in the CWHL, that hasn’t been the case between the second and third seed this year.
While Calgary ended the season with 34 points, the Brampton Thunder were trailing right behind Hayley Wickeheiser’s Inferno by one point with 33, and did the Thunder ever give Calgary a challenge during the two-game series between the two clubs.
On Feb. 26, Calgary took Game 1 with a score of 4-2 against the Thunder, and then Game 2 in a close 4-3 bout to earn their spot in the Clarkson Cup.
Montreal’s greatest asset is their scoring power. Les Canadiennes managed to put the puck in the net 114 times in the regular season, not to mention that the club has the top four scorers in the CWHL (Marie-Philip Poulin, Kim Deschenes, Caroline Ouellette and Ann-Sophie Bettez) rocking the red and blue Sunday.
And who can forget about Montreal’s goaltender Charline Labonte, who quite simply has been incredible this season? The 33-year old earned a goals-against average of 1.52 and a save percentage of .925 in the postseason.
But Calgary isn’t without its own stars. Rebecca Johnston won the CWHL scoring title last season and will provide the Inferno with a much-needed scoring boost against Montreal. She’s been out for the majority of the season due to an injury, but is back and ready to make an impact.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist scored twice during the playoffs in addition to three assists.
In between the pipes for the Inferno will be Delayne Brian, who’s earned a GAA of 2.50 and a save percentage of .904 in the playoffs.
Montreal has seemed to have had Calgary’s number during the regular season winning four of six games, including a 5-0 blowout for Montreal at the start of the season.
Calgary will be making their Clarkson Cup final debut, while Montreal has been to the finals two of the last three years, while also winning championships in 2011 and 2012.
Ultimately, both teams have scoring power, but it will be the team that’s able to shut down the other through good solid defense and a bit of magic in net that should come out victorious.
— CWHL (@TheCWHL) March 10, 2016
Hockey Canada Well Represented
Of note, 12 players recently named to Hockey Canada’s Women’s World Championship team will be playing in the Clarkson Cup, including nine for Calgary and three for Montreal:
Les Canadiennes de Montréal
Charline Labonte (G)
Lauriane Rougeau (D)
Marie-Philip Poulin (F)
Brigette Lacquette (D)
Meaghan Mikkelson (D)
Rebecca Johnston (F)
Jillian Saulnier (F)
Bailey Bram (F)
Brianne Jenner (F)
Hayley Wickenheiser (F)
Sarah Davis (F)
Blayre Turnbull (F)
The Bottom Line
The CWHL Clarkson Cup Weekend kicks off Friday with the CWHL Awards Gala at the Brookstreet Hotel in Ottawa. Saturday will be CWHL Community Day where players will spend the day out in the community and interacting with young women’s hockey players while the Inferno and Les Canadiennes spend the day preparing for Sunday’s big game.
The Clarkson Cup Championship will be on Sunday at 4 p.m. EST at the Canadian Tire Centre, and carried nationwide on Sportsnet.
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Ben Smith covers the CHL for The Hockey Writers. He also writes for HockeyNow Magazine, FlamesNation and SB Nation.