MARKHAM, Ont. — Janine Weber is clearly still in shock.
The towering 5-foot-10 Austrian is standing near centre ice at Markham Centennial Arena, trying to figure out exactly what just happened. Minutes earlier, she scored—in overtime—to win the Clarkson Cup, then jumped into the glass as her Boston Blades teammates mobbed her.
Behind Weber, the rest of the team is now celebrating with the trophy, the top prize in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL).
“A two-on-one, and I think I just saw an opening,” Weber says, grinning. Her blonde hair is tied back in a ponytail. “I don’t know, it just happened so fast and I haven’t realized yet what happened.”
This is what happened: The Blades, who came into these playoffs the No. 1-ranked team, beat the Montreal Stars 3-2 on Saturday afternoon at Markham Centennial Arena to win the second Clarkson Cup in franchise history, and the OT winner—high, glove side— came off Weber’s stick.
Charline Labonte, Montreal’s standout netminder, posted two shutouts in the semifinal series and turned away 28 shots on Saturday. She kept Montreal in the game. Labonte, a three-time Olympic gold medallist with Team Canada, was named MVP of the tournament, and fought back tears as she watched the Blades celebrate.
“Labonte played a hell of a game, hell of a tournament,” says Blades forward and top-scorer, Brianna Decker. “We just had to make sure we took her eyes away and got a lot of shots on net.”
Boston’s other two goals came from likely sources—Decker and Hilary Knight, both members of Team USA who won Olympic silver in Sochi. Knight scored on a tap-in on the powerplay thanks to a perfect pass from defenceman Kacey Bellamy, and Decker scored in the third period after walking out, beating a couple of Stars defenders, and putting one under the out-stretched glove of Labonte.
Labonte, Decker and Knight were named the stars of the game.
But it was Weber, a CWHL rookie and third-line centreman, who played the hero. And it was fitting for a 23-year-old member of the Austrian national team, a team that has never qualified for the Olympics in women’s hockey, or played in the top division at the world championships, to put one in on a big stage like this.
Weber is the lone European on the Blades roster. “She’s European, but she speaks great English,” says Decker, grinning. “She’s great to have in the locker room, lots of jokes. Even though she comes off a little quiet, she’s a clutch player—just like that.”
Weber played college hockey at Providence, and decided to stick around to try out with the Blades.
Coach Digit Murphy says she knew Weber was going to play a big role on a team stacked with Team USA players.
“She’s been a force,” Murphy says. “When she came to us back in September, I said, ‘That kid’s special because she’s big, she’s strong, she can shoot. She’s very under-rated. I said, ‘She’s gonna do a lot of good things in this league because of her size and because of the physicality.’”
Murphy had Weber centering an all-rookie third line. She told them before the playoffs started, ‘You guys are gonna make the difference in this tournament.’
A bit of time passes, and it’s starting to sink in for Weber, what she just did. She’s hoisted the cup. She’s posed for that classic hockey championship picture with her teammates.
“Now that I think about it,” she says, grinning, “it is the biggest goal I’ve ever scored. Definitely.”