TORONTO — The Calgary Inferno earned a measure of revenge Sunday in the latest chapter of their rivalry with Les Canadiennes de Montreal.
Zoe Hickel had two goals as the Inferno defeated Les Canadiennes 5-2 to win the Clarkson Cup at Coca-Cola Coliseum. It was the third time in four years that the teams had faced off in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League final.
Calgary won in 2016 but Montreal rebounded a year later.
"I’ve been on other end of this," said Inferno forward Brianne Jenner. "This is my third time playing in the Clarkson Cup, third time against Montreal, so there’s definitely a rivalry there. In a couple of days a few of them will be teammates at (the 2019 worlds in Finland) and it’ll all be smiles, but it feels pretty good Calgary got this one."
Brianna Decker, Halli Krzyzaniak and Rebecca Johnston, into an empty net, also scored for Calgary. Decker was named most valuable player of the game.
"I thrive off that pressure, I thrive off these games," said the 27-year-old, who won gold with the U.S. at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang. "It’s fun to be out there and compete in the top championship games every season."
Ann-Sophie Bettez had both goals for Les Canadiennes.
After being named goaltender of the year on Friday, Alex Rigsby made 25 saves for Calgary. Award finalist Emerance Maschmeyer turned aside 26 shots in a losing effort.
Marie-Philip Poulin, fresh off capturing her third CWHL MVP award in four years, did not see the ice after taking the ceremonial puck drop prior to the game.
The Montreal captain, who led the league with 50 points and 23 goals, was hurt in the final game of the regular season. She missed the final with a lower-body injury.
Les Canadiennes coach Caroline Ouellette said the team "couldn’t compromise her career for that one moment," but she is hopeful to be ready for the world championship next month.
"She was heartbroken," said Ouellette.
"She’s the type of player that craves those big moments. Those moments where everything is on the line. She’s our captain, she’s our leader, she’s the best player in the league in my opinion."
Calgary got off to a fast start as the Inferno’s Johnston wheeled around the Montreal zone and fired a shot off the far post just a few minutes into the first period.
The Inferno continued to press with Les Canadiennes forward Sarah Lefort drawing a hooking penalty at 4:52 after Decker slipped a pass into the slot for a good scoring chance.
Montreal killed off the penalty, but Calgary opened the scoring shortly after as Inferno defender Katelyn Gosling fired a slap-pass to Hickel, who tipped it past Maschmeyer to make it 1-0 at 7:59.
Several minutes later, Jenner slipped into the Montreal zone and put on a great display of puck skills after falling to her knees. The Inferno maintained possession and worked the puck around to Krzyzaniak, who scored on a shot from the point to put Calgary ahead 2-0 at 12:59.
Jenner continued her dominating first period, breaking in all alone and nearly stretching the lead to three, but she missed just wide after dekeing out Maschmeyer.
Hickel said the Inferno’s first-period performance provided a massive boost to the team.
"It’s huge for the confidence for us," she said. "And just for the team as a whole. We had great energy as a team on the bench."
Les Canadiennes made a push early in the second period.
Bettez cut the deficit to 2-1 after receiving a pass from Sarah Lefort in the left faceoff circle and sending a spinning backhand between Rigsby’s legs at 3:43.
A Montreal hooking penalty by Karell Emard killed some of her team’s momentum. Kacey Bellamy later connected with Decker, who blasted a shot past Maschmeyer on the ensuing power play as the Inferno stretched the lead to 3-1 at 12:42.
However, back-to-back penalties for Calgary (Jenner for goalie interference at 15:49 and Blayre Turnbull body checking at 16:48) opened the door for Montreal.
With a 5-on-3 advantage, Hilary Knight set up Bettez with a slick between-the-legs pass as Montreal cut the deficit to one goal at 17:37.
Les Canadiennes thought they had squared the game 31 seconds into the third period when Erin Ambrose found the back of the net, but the goal was waved off for goalie interference.
Rigsby came up big to start the period, standing tall as Montreal pressed on a power play after Calgary’s Rebecca Leslie was sent off for bodychecking.
Johnston found Hickel in the slot and she fired a quick shot at 6:24 that restored Calgary’s two-goal cushion.
Bettez said despite Les Canadiennes’ efforts in the latter part of the game, they couldn’t climb out of their early hole.
"We didn’t play 60 minutes and I think we just ran out of time," she said. "By the end of the second and in the third, we got momentum, but unfortunately we didn’t … play 60 minutes."
Ouellette echoed the sentiment.
"For some reason, we weren’t ready to attack it and seize the opportunity. It’s a great team, we gave them too much time, too much space, too much respect. And in the end, it made the difference."
Montreal went 1 for 6 on the power play while Calgary was 1 for 5 with the man advantage.
"We would have needed everyone to play their best possible game from the start to finish (without Poulin) and unfortunately we didn’t have that," Ouellette said.