This year’s Clarkson Cup final was a rematch of last year’s, with the Calgary Inferno and les Canadiennes de Montréal meeting in Ottawa for the championship. Unlike last year’s game, which was an offensive smorgasbord (particularly for Calgary, who won 8-3), this year’s game was a tighter affair, with only three goals scored on a goaltender en route to Montréal’s 3-1 win.
In a game like that, small, smart plays and little mistakes are huge. Here’s a closer look at two of those three goals—a power-play goal by Katia Clement-Heydra, and the Inferno’s only goal of the game, a third-period beauty from Jill Saulnier.
Canadiennes Goal: Katia Clement-Heydra, assists from Marin and Emard (PPG)
Here’s the Youtube link, if you’d prefer to watch it on video.
This sequence starts off with Bailey Bram (17) taking a holding penalty on Jordanna Peroff (20). Bram gets her arm right around Peroff’s midsection and brings her down, and the Inferno, who killed off a penalty only a few seconds earlier, go right back on the penalty kill.
Calgary wins the faceoff, and Meaghan Mikkelson (12) chases it into the corner, with Katia Clement-Heydra (19) behind her. Clement-Heydra uses her body to pin Mikkelson against the boards as they scrabble for the puck, and Mikkelson pokes it away from Clement-Heydra.
It’s collected by Karell Emard (76). Mikkelson sees that and manages to get her stick out far enough and poke it away from her too, because Meaghan Mikkelson is great. The puck bounces loose into the faceoff circle, looking all tempting and available.
This draws the attention of four players, Hayleigh Cudmore (24), Emard, Brianne Jenner (19), and Noémie Marin (10), three of whom are about the same distance away from the puck. It pulls Cudmore out of her position at the top of the crease, and Rebecca Johnston (6) stays in the slot instead of shifting down to cover the net. Mikkelson is behind Clement-Heydra, below the goal line, and Jenner is at the other side of the faceoff circle to the outside of Marin. This placement will turn out to be bad for the Inferno in a second.
As Cudmore, Emard, and Marin converge on the puck, Marin tips it up into the air, and it’s gloved down by Clement-Heydra. She bats it right to her stick and drives towards the net.
By now, Cudmore is completely out of position and actually has her back to the puck. Johnston and Mikkelson are both realizing that someone needs to get to the net, but Clement-Heydra has a clear path.
Clement-Heydra charges into the crease. She’s got no angle for a forehand shot, and drawing it back to shoot would’ve put Mikkelson in a great position to poke at it with her stick. Instead, she skates through the top of the crease and takes a backhand shot off the post and in.
It’s a smart move on her part. She waits until she’s got Emerance Maschmeyer (38) down in the butterfly, and flips the puck right into the empty net on the far side, protecting herself from Mikkelson poking the puck away (again).
At this point, she’s got Johnston and Cudmore both in the slot and Mikkelson behind her, but they’re all too late or in the wrong position. This is a perfect example of how a single mistake on the penalty kill—in this case, Cudmore leaving the front of the net and nobody covering for it—can quickly lead to a goal. It took les Canadiennes seven whole seconds of this power play to put the puck in the net.
Calgary Goal: Jill Saulnier, assist from Johnston
Here’s the YouTube link for your enjoyment.
The defending Clarkson Cup champions were held off the scoresheet until about seven minutes left in the third, when Rebecca Johnston and Jill Saulnier decided to show everyone why Johnston’s on Team Canada, and why Saulnier shouldn’t have been cut.
After offsides is called against Calgary, the faceoff is brought to right outside the Montréal zone.
It’s won straight back to Charline Labonté (1), as Cathy Chartrand (8) and Julie Chu (21) chase it into the offensive zone. Notice Rebecca Johnston (6) in the above picture, still on the other side of the blue line. That’s going to change very quickly.
Labonté steers it to the side so it can be collected by Chartrand. She’s got Chu coming down next to her for support, so she elects to take it around the net and then look up for her next move. Chartrand makes the mistake of taking her time with it, because as you can see from the above screenshot, the Inferno players are still pretty far back. Again, that changes very quickly.
Chartrand looks up for a pass, sees Jill Saulnier (27) closing in, decides to send it back to Chu. She turns and passes behind the cage to Chu, who’s on the other side of the ice below the goal line. This was not a good choice.
By the time Chartrand makes up her mind and makes the pass, Johnston is right freaking there. The pass itself is also not very well angled, skirting the back of the cage, and Johnston cuts down next to the goal and gets her stick on it to intercept. Chu is too far away to keep her from getting it, and Johnston immediately turns to put her body between them, blocking Chu out.
In the process, she knocks Chu down, or Chu falls down, depending on exactly who you want to blame in this situation. (I like to think of Julie Chu as blameless in all things). Meanwhile, Saulnier sees her teammate coming, and instead of moving down to help—which Johnston doesn’t need now that Chu’s down—she reverses course to slide into position right at the top of the crease.
As I’ve mentioned before, Johnston has fantastic playmaking instincts, and look, here they are! She takes a stride or two to curl around behind the cage, and the moment she has the angle slings a pass to Saulnier, who’s on Labonté’s doorstep.
Chartrand headed up ice after making that pass, and she isn’t fast enough to get back in position and cover Saulnier. The moment the puck hits Saulnier’s stick, she one-touches it through the gap between Labonté’s shoulder and the post. The sequence happens so quickly, the puck’s in the net before Chu is back up on her skates.
The CWHL season might be over, but the Women’s World Championships start on March 31st. The Team Canada roster features a lot of players from both of these teams, including Meaghan Mikkelson, Rebecca Johnston, Bailey Bram, Brianne Jenner, and Emerance Maschmeyer. We’ll have coverage of that on PPP, especially of the three Toronto Furies players on the roster, so stay tuned.