GAME PREVIEW: Clarkson Cup Final – Les Canadiennes de Montreal vs. Calgary Inferno
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Saturday, March 23, 2019
Watch: Sportsnet, TVA, NHL Network
TORONTO, ON – There are so many storylines going into Sunday’s Clarkson Cup Final at Coca-Cola Coliseum, but they all boil down to one thing: the rivalry between Calgary and Montreal.
Geographically, they aren’t very close, but this is their third in four years that Les Canadiennes and the Inferno have met in the Championship.
Calgary won the first meeting back in 2016 in a dominant 8-3 performance, but Montreal came back the next season and beat the defending champions 3-1. 2018’s Clarkson Cup was the famous overtime winner for Laura Stacey and the Markham Thunder, but Calgary and Montreal are back to settle the score once again.
“Tomorrow I think will be a bit of a revenge [game] for us, to be able to show what we’re made of,” said Les Canadiennes’ 2nd highest scorer Ann-Sophie Bettez after Montreal’s closed practice Saturday afternoon. “We won the last game in the Clarkson Cup, so I think [Calgary] will want revenge as well.”
Montreal’s greatest asset may not be in the lineup Sunday. Les Canadiennes’ captain Marie-Philip Poulin remains a game-time decision for tomorrow’s championship. Poulin has yet to make an appearance in the 2019 playoffs after sustaining a lower-body injury in Montreal’s last game of the season.
Les Canadiennes’ talented top centre took home lots of hardware from Friday night’s CWHL Awards, including both league MVP awards and the Angela James Bowl for the CWHL scoring title. Needless to say, tomorrow’s final would sorely miss the speed and skill of Captain Canada.
Goaltending Wins Championships
Neither team should have an issue between the pipes on Sunday. Tomorrow’s goalie battle features a pair who have seen a lot of each other both in league and National play: Canadian Emerance Maschmeyer for Les Canadiennes and American Alex Rigsby for the Inferno.
Rigsby is coming off winning Goaltender of the Year and carried the best record in the regular season of 14-2-1 in 17 games played. She played in all 6 regular season games against Montreal in 2018/19, winning 4 of them and posting a 0.914 save percentage in those matchups, with only one below .900 performance.
“Every single game was a competitive game and you have to make sure you bring it every time,” Rigsby told reporters. “Hopefully we can end the season on a high note, but it’s going to be a real battle out there… Obviously we’re both going to be bringing it on Sunday.”
Maschmeyer will be at the other end of the rink and will likely have a little extra fire in her. She was nominated for Goaltender of the Year after posting career numbers as a starter and being statistically the best goalie in the league with a .935 save percentage, 1.45 goals against average and 4 shutouts. She saw Calgary 5 times during the regular season and won two of those meetings, with a final save percentage of .921 and a shutout.
“We always have a really good goalie battle,” Said Maschmeyer after Saturday’s practice. “I’m excited to be facing her again and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
4-2: Was the result of the season series in favour of the Calgary Inferno.
16-14: Calgary outscored Montreal in the regular season.
10: Points each for Marie-Philip Poulin and Ann-Sophie Bettez against Calgary.
7: Points each for Rebecca Johnston and Zoe Hickel against Montreal.
8: Playoff points (4G, 4A) for Montreal’s Hilary Knight, in just 3 games.
18: Penalty minutes for Calgary’s Bridgette Lacquette in the playoffs.
15: Olympians playing in Sunday’s Clarkson Cup
Clarkson To Watch Clarkson
The former Governor General and creator of the Clarkson Cup, Adrienne Clarkson will be at Coca-Cola Coliseum to mark the 10th anniversary of her trophy’s first hoist in 2009.
The 80-year-old had the Cup fabricated after her suggestion for the Stanley Cup to be awarded to the top women’s team in hockey during the 2004/05 NHL lockout was denied. She commissioned Canadian silversmith Beth M. Biggs to design the trophy in collaboration with three Inuit artists: Okpik Pitseolak, Therese Ukaliannuk, and Pootoogook Qiatsuk.
The Montreal Stars were the first team to lift the cup and Les Canadiennes have a chance to win it again 10 years later.
Brianna Decker: “It’s going to be a close game for sure. Both teams have so much talent and skill and are well coached. It’ll be a fun game to watch.”
Sarah Nurse: “I don’t want to pick favourites but, I already predicted the game-winning goals. I think Melodie Daoust is going to have the game-winning goal for Montreal, or Blayre Turnbull [for Calgary].”
No matter how you slice it, Sunday’s Clarkson Cup Final will be a spectacular display of high-skill hockey in its purest form.
Toronto Furies Captain Natalie Spooner makes her broadcasting debut on the broadcast, while Sarah Nurse takes over the Sportsnet Instagram like she did during the CWHL All-Star Game.
With an unbelievable amount of great content set for Sunday, will you be watching?
Let me know what you think!