OTTAWA — The Montreal Canadiennes’ Clarkson Cup championship was a year in the making.
Marie-Philip Poulin scored twice, including into an empty net, as Montreal claimed its fourth Clarkson Cup title with a 3-1 win over the Calgary Inferno on Sunday. The win exacted some revenge for the Canadiennes after the Inferno earned an 8-3 win in last year’s Clarkson Cup, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League championship. Last year was Calgary’s first Clarkson Cup appearance.
"It has been (a year) since we’ve been waiting for this game," said Poulin. "We wanted to come out hard. They have a great team and we wanted to put pressure on them and put pucks on net. We’re really happy with the way we came out and when you play as a team good things happen."
She also believes that the CWHL season as a whole showed how the women’s game is evolving.
"We’ve showed that it’s really growing," said Poulin. "The games were all hard fought and it shows what’s going on in women’s hockey. On the world side with Finland, Sweden and the United States it’s really growing for sure."
Katie Clement-Heydra also scored for the Canadiennes and Julie Chu had two assists on Sunday.
The title was the fourth for Montreal in the nine years the Clarkson Cup has been held and the team’s first championship since 2012. They also won titles in 2009 and 2011, all as the Montreal Stars. In 2013 and 2015 they were also the Stars and lost the championship both of those years.
Montreal’s CWHL team was renamed the Canadiennes before last season.
The Inferno were the regular-season champions going 20-4-0 and finishing four points up on the Canadiennes in the standings. The teams split six games during the regular season with one of Calgary’s wins coming in overtime.
Calgary scored a league-best 100 goals during the regular season but couldn’t get one past Charline Labonte on Sunday until Jillian Saulnier broke the shutout bid at 12:57 of the third period.
Labonte finished with 27 saves while Emerance Maschmeyer made 21 in Calgary’s net.
The Inferno were pressing hard throughout the third period but Poulin iced the game into an empty net with less than two minutes to play.
"I was so happy. There’s no better person to score that goal and it was a relief because they were putting a lot of pressure on us. Calgary is a very strong team and they can turn a game around like that," Labonte said, adding she got better as she got more work.
"I wanted to get as many shots as possible because that’s how I get to my best. Maschmeyer was very strong but we put so much pressure on them and I feel we controlled most of the game and did exactly what we wanted. I made the saves I had to but my team had a lot of blocked shots as well."
Clement-Heydra opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 12:36 of the first period, and used some good hand-eye co-ordination to do it. She grabbed a puck out of the air and dropped it to her feet before chipping a backhand over the shoulder of Maschmeyer for a 1-0 lead.
"We came out a little flat in the first and took a little too long to get things going," Inferno captain Brianne Jenner said. "I believe we had a chance at the end and we thought we had the momentum but sometimes it doesn’t go your way. We were kind of in a bit of a daze and there wasn’t any panic by any means and everyone was pretty calm."
The Canadiennes maintained their one-goal advantage until 5:24 of the second period when Poulin scored to double the advantage to 2-0 on a shot Maschmeyer would certainly like another chance at. The Poulin shot from the slot should have been caught by the Inferno netminder, but instead it went off her glove and down between her legs and in.
"As a goalie you want to take back every goal. I wish I would have stopped those two but I’m playing against great players and they know how to score," said Maschmeyer said. "Poulin does a really good job shooting through the D and I lost it in the legs of my D. I thought I had it but it trickled in."
The Canadiennes made it to Sunday’s final with a two-game sweep of the Brampton Thunder in the semifinals. The Inferno needed three games to dispose of the Toronto Furies in the best-of-three semifinal.