For the first time in CWHL history, the Calgary Inferno have been crowned Clarkson Cup Champions after defeating Les Canadiennes de Montréal 8-3 Sunday afternoon at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario.
Calgary started the game off with a bang after Rebecca Johnston netted her first of the game just 2:26 into the first period. Brianne Jenner and Jillian Saulnier would pick up the assists on the game’s opener. Montreal would respond on the powerplay roughly seven minutes into the game, when 2016 CWHL Most Valuable Player Marie-Philip Poulin would capitalize on a rebound from Caroline Ouellette to tie the game at one apiece.
15 minutes into the first period, Calgary would take their second lead of the game when on the powerplay as Brianne Jenner netted her first of the game with an assist from Rebecca Johnston to give the Inferno a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
When the puck dropped on the 2nd, the scoring began in earnest for the Inferno as Jessica Campbell got the party started 5:04 into the second period after capitalizing on Sarah Davis’s rebound to make it 3-1 Inferno. Hayley Wickenheiser sent Blayre Turnbull a great pass to send her on a partial breakaway, which she’d score on to make it 4-1 Inferno halfway through the final.
Noemie Marin would cut the Inferno’s lead to a 4-2 game, scoring far side 12:58 into the period.
Heading into the final, Les Canadiennes had been the heavy favourite, after finishing 1st in the CWHL standings and winning four of the team’s six matchups in the regular season.
The Inferno were up to the challenge and continued their scoring ways as Jessica Campbell scored her 2nd of the game, five minutes into the period with Meaghan Mikkelson-Reid and Aina Takeuchi grabbing the assists to make it 5-2. Four minutes later, Rebecca Johnston would score her second of the night for the Inferno to extend the lead to 6-2.
Kim Deschenes tried to kick start Les Canadiennes, scoring a late goal 12:45 into the third period shortly before Montreal pulled goaltender Charline Labonte in favor of the extra attacker.
Brianne Jenner would score on the empty net to make it 8-3 for the Inferno, who’d go on to raise the Clarkson Cup moments later.
Inferno coach Scott Reid told reporters in simple terms “”Our girls played with a lot of heart. We decided to leave it out on the table.”
Sunday’s final capped-off an entire weekend of CWHL actions for fans including the CWHL Awards Gala on Friday night, and CWHL Community Day on Saturday, which gave fans an opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with players out in the Ottawa community.
Commissioner Brenda Andress couldn’t have been happier with how the weekend went. Andress also addressed what the Clarkson Cup championship day means to her.
“It’s a build up all year long for this day where we get to celebrate two of our top teams. And for me personally, it’s about really seeing such a phenomenal amount of women who train all year, work in jobs and then come to hockey at night,” said Andress.
“Seeing all the fans in the stands and seeing what our players have done makes me so proud.”
Andress had put a heavy emphasis on the “why” surrounding the CWHL at the Awards Gala – why the players play in the league, why the fans support the league.
Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser also mentioned why she plays in the CWHL. “It’s the best possible scenario for me. To be in Calgary where we have 10 national players on the roster and can train and be on the ice together, it’s the perfect environment for us to train as close to pro athletes as possible.”
And if Andress had one message for fans- “Thank you, because you make a difference.”
“People always ask what can we do to grow the game, and I respond by saying buy a ticket- that simple. It’s cheering for our women and showing them what they do is making a difference.”
4,082 fans at the Canadian Tire Centre witnessed Calgary win their first Clarkson Cup in franchise history. And the Inferno epitomized all that the Clarkson Cup symbolizes- sacrifice, inspiration, and hard work.