Stacey scores winner to lift Thunder over Red Star in Clarkson Cup

Laura Stacey's OT winner earned Markham a 2-1 win over Kunlun for the Clarkson Cup victory.

TORONTO — Laura Stacey had no interest in seeing Sunday’s Clarkson Cup go to a shootout.

The 23-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., was part of the Canadian women’s Olympic team that fell 3-2 to the Americans in a shootout last month in Pyeongchang.

Stacey one-timed a Nicole Kosta feed past Noora Raty with 2:11 remaining in overtime as the Markham Thunder edged the Kunlun Red Star 2-1 to capture the CWHL championship.

“I definitely had that OT-shootout kind of picture in my head, and I really really didn’t want to go back to what happened a couple weeks ago,” said Stacey.

“I don’t know if it necessarily eases that (Olympic) pain, but it is a really special moment and I’m really happy that I could be a part of it.”

Nicole Brown had the other goal for Markham and Erica Howe, named the Clarkson Cup MVP, made 17 saves.

“It’s been a long time coming, but it feels good,” said Brown. “The atmosphere was always positive in the dressing room. We’ve overcome a lot of obstacles as a team and we all just needed to play for each other and that’s exactly what we did.”

Kelli Stack, named the CWHL MVP as voted on by the coaches and staff, had the lone Kunlun goal while Raty, who took home goaltender of the year honours on Friday after leading the league in goals-against average (1.60) and save percentage (.944) this season, stopped 37 shots.

“Really proud of my team, probably not a lot of people thought we’d play in the final,” said Raty. “Really proud of how we battled. Disappointed that we lost, yes, but I feel in our hearts we had a chance.”

Following the trophy presentation at Ricoh Coliseum, members of the Red Star were waiting for the customary post-game handshake, but the Thunder elected to conduct its team photo on the ice at which point Raty led her Kunlun players off the ice.

“I don’t think it’s very classy to keep the other team to watch the other team celebrating,” said Raty. “I think they should’ve (shook) hands right away and then they can celebrate as long as they want. Too bad we didn’t get to shake hands with them.

“Maybe next time they can do it a little bit different.”

Sunday marked the third trip to the Clarkson Cup for the Thunder franchise. The organization also reached the championship game in 2010 and 2012, losing both years.

The Thunder, who relocated from Brampton to Markham for this season, upset 2017 Clarkson Cup champion Montreal sweeping their best-of-three semi-final.

As Beijing gets set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, China is looking to build a competitive women’s national team by developing players in the CWHL. Kunlun was one of two expansion franchises based in China playing in the CWHL this season.

The Red Star needed triple overtime in the third and deciding game to dispatch the Calgary Inferno and earn a berth in Sunday’s final.

Brown opened the scoring for Markham at 8:24 of the first, lifting a Laura Fortino pass over the glove hand of Raty for her first goal of the playoffs.

Stacey thought she’d doubled Markham’s lead five minutes into the second, picking the pocket of Red Star defenceman Jessica Wong and breaking in alone on Raty, but the puck did not cross the goal line according to officials.

Despite being outshot 11-6 in the middle frame, Kunlun had the lone goal of the period when a puck deflected off Stack and past Howe with 48.6 remaining.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.