It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Hayley Wickenheiser has once again ended up atop the women’s hockey world.
One of the greatest women’s players in the history of the sport, Wickenheiser, 37, further added to her legacy Sunday afternoon as her two assists helped the Calgary Inferno take home their first Clarkson Cup in franchise history with a convincing 8-3 victory over the Montreal Les Canadiennes.
While both Montreal and Calgary made it to the Clarkson Cup final with 2-0 series sweeps of Toronto and Brampton respectively, Les Canadiennes were far more dominating and the clear favorite in the final. In their two wins to get to the final, Montreal scored 12 times and allowed only two goals against, while Calgary needed 4-2 and 4-3 wins over Brampton in order to advance to the final.
Les Canadiennes were just as dominating during the regular season, too, finishing atop the league with a 21-3-0 record and a plus-38 goal differential. Montreal also boasted each of the league’s top-four scorers and the league’s leading goaltender in Charline Labonte, who went 17-2-0 with five shutouts, .925 save percentage and 1.52 goals-against average.
That’s not to say the Inferno limped into the final, however. Calgary finished the regular season with a 16-6-2 record and a plus-30 goal differential, but their top scorer, Jenner, finished with 18 fewer points than Montreal’s top scorer, Marie-Philip Poulin, who scored 23 goals and 46 points in 22 games.
But the nature of the Clarkson Cup final — a one-game, winner-takes-all affair between the winners of three-game play-in series — makes the final ripe for an upset and that’s exactly what the Inferno did Sunday over arguably the most successful organization in CWHL history. For Les Canadiennes, this was the sixth time in the past eight seasons they had made it to the final, but for the second consecutive season they came up short. Calgary on the other hand made good on their first appearance in the championship game in franchise history by coming out firing. After the first period, the Inferno held a 2-1 lead, but blew the game open with a three-goal second period and added another three goals in the final frame to hoist the Clarkson Cup.
The Inferno’s big win was thanks in large part to multi-point efforts from Rebecca Johnston, Brianne Jenner and Blayre Turnbull as well as some stellar play from Calgary netminder Delayne Brian. Johnston and Jenner, each with two goals and three points, led the Inferno offensively, but Brian was the main reason the Inferno took home the Cup.
Brian’s 38 saves on 41 shots made her the first star of the Cup final and Clarkson Cup MVP, and she kept the Inferno in the contest every time she was challenged. Over the tournament’s three games, Brian posted a .914 SP, 2.67 GAA and victories in all three outings.