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CWHL Recap: Markham Thunder are 2018 Clarkson Cup Champions!

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Laura Stacey and Nicole Kosta are the overtime heroes.

CWHL Clarkson Cup Chris Tanouye / CWHL

Despite the narrative of players’ MVP vs league MVP on the broadcast, Markham rolls out a starting line of Nicole Brown, Nicole Kosta and Jenna McParland at forward to shut down Kunlun’s Kelli Stack, Stephanie Anderson and Zoe Hickel. On the back end it’s Jocelyne Larocque and Laura Fortino against Taylor Marchin and Jessica Wong. No surprises in goal: Erica Howe for the Thunder and Goalie of the Year Noora Räty for Kunlun.

First period

Battle for possession as both teams spend time stealing the puck from each other without being able to get too far out of the neutral zone.

Markham gets the first couple of stabs deep into the Kunlun zone but Räty doesn’t need to make a save.

Shot by Alex Carpenter from out far turned aside by Howe.

Couple of attacks led by Kelli Stack.

Kosta takes it into the Kunlun zone but there’s no one there to take the centring pass.

Jamie Lee Rattray gets the first shot on Räty but it hits her straight in the chest.

Howe makes a stop on Shiann Darkangelo who was trying for a wraparound.

Maddie Woo dumps an errant puck into the Markham zone to get a change for Kunlun. Markham attempt to counter but ice the puck.

Things get messy in the Markham zone and the Thunder fight Red Star off just enough to ice the puck again.

Baiwei Yu sends a shot wide.

Larocque takes the puck in deep but can’t get a shot.

Howe gloves a shot by Darkangelo.

Rattray dances behind the net trying to find someone to pass to. Meghan Bozek gets a shot off with traffic in front and it looks like Räty might be in trouble for a second but the puck stays out and Markham lose it to Kunlun.

First goal goes to Markham! Nicole Kosta gets a shot on Räty and the rebound goes behind the net to Laura Fortino, who feeds Nicole Brown. Brown’s shot lands behind Räty before anyone can do anything 1-0. Larocque was credited with the secondary assist for a while, but it was eventually corrected to Kosta.

Erica Howe weathers the counterattack by Kunlun with a number of saves. Brown tries to carry the puck out but it flips over the glass. The officials discuss but Markham avoids a delay of game penalty.

Late whistle for icing in the Kunlun zone confuses the heck out of the players.

Laura Stacey brings the puck into the offensive zone and gets a shot on Räty. Markham keep the puck in for a while but Red Star gets it out before there’s another shot.

Howe makes a couple more saves.

McParland gets a couple of opportunities and Räty’s splayed in her crease but keeps the puck out.

Markham’s defence are doing a decent job of keeping Kunlun away from the front of their net.

Zhixin Liu is called for a body check and the first power play goes to the Thunder. Megan Bozek sends a hard shot to start but the puck comes out. Markham get it back in and cause chaos in front of Räty but luck isn’t with them.

Shiann Darkangelo gets a shorthanded opportunity that Howe has no problem with and then a Thunder player takes Darkangelo down behind the net.

McParland gets an opportunity back at even strength but can’t get the puck up and over Räty.

Loose puck in the crease behind Räty but Zoe Hickel rescues it and brings it out.

Markham get back into the offensive zone and attempt to cycle the puck. It sort of works, if messily.

Kunlun get pinned in their own zone for most of the final minute. Maddie Woo sends out a long shot that Howe turns aside easily to end the period.

Shots for the period 13-6 for the Thunder.

Second period

The period starts off in the Red Star zone. Two attempts to get it out are shut down by the Thunder but they don’t get any shots on net before the puck takes a quick tour of their zone.

Laura McIntosh gets a shot on net.

Markham is largely in control of this period, although they still need to shoot more. Kunlun’s attempts at offensive zone entries keep resulting in possession for the Thunder,

Alex Carpenter comes in alone. She takes a shot before backup gets to her and Markham tie the puck up again, frustrating Stack.

Laura Stacey gets in alone on Räty and for a second it looks like she’s scored, but the puck goes along the goal line and comes back out. Play continues.

Fortino gets a shot right on that Räty stops but doesn’t hang on to.

Another close call for the Thunder rings off the post and out.

Anderson fires a shot but it’s blocked by the Thunder defender before it ever gets to the net.

Slapshot by Jenna McParland tests Räty’s reflexes but she snatches the puck out of the air.

Kunlun finally get themselves set up in Markham’s zone but again they have trouble getting in close and Erica Howe stops play when she needs to.

Markham gets it out but come in offside. Kunlun try to head back in but they’re called offside as well.

Icing on Markham.

Jamie Lee Rattray forces a turnover and muscles her way in on Räty but her shot goes high.

Kunlun get some offensive zone time but aren’t getting good chances. Markham ice the puck and then take it out on the resulting faceoff.

Give and go by Stack and Carpenter but they don’t get a shot off.

Larocque to Fortino who fires a cannon at the net but Räty is in position to stop it.

Jessica Wong centres the puck for Woo, who fans on it. KRS stay in the zone and again Markham can only get it out by icing it.

First power play for Kunlun as Rattray is called for a bodycheck.

Laura Stacey fights off a bunch of Red Star players for a shorthanded opportunity but can’t actually get a shot off. Another shorthanded chance for Fortino. The power play is one of Kunlun’s strengths but you wouldn’t know it from this. And there’s Stacey coming into the KRS zone again.

The penalty expires with no shots from the Red Star and play ongoing in their own zone.

Alex Carpenter dances with the puck and tries to set something up but it fizzles. McParland tries a shot at the other end but fans on it. Kunlun get the puck into the Markham zone but can’t get past the Thunder defenders.

Bozek fires a shot in but Räty hangs on for the faceoff.

Devon Skeats is called for a trip and the Red Star have their second power play opportunity.

This one starts off with a shot but the rebound comes out of the zone.

Tie game! Howe complains, but the goal stands. Alex Carpenter feeds a pass back diagonally to Zoe Hickel, whose shot deflects off Kelli Stack in front and through Erica Howe. 1-1.

Less than a minute left and the Thunder attempt to counter but get tied up in the corner as the horn goes.

Thunder still leading in shots 11-6.

Third period

Kunlun starts the period in the Markham zone and Darkangelo just misses with a shot.

Markham get into the offensive zone but are kept to the boards.

Skeats gets a shot on Räty and gets the rebound, takes it around for a wraparound. Puck comes out to Taylor Woods and Räty has to be sharp to keep it out.

Kunlun come in offside but their next attempt is clean. Battles at both ends but again not much in the way of shots.

Hell of a shot by Bozek but right on Räty.

Carpenter gets a shot on Howe that comes out and stays loose. Number of shot attempts by Kunlun, most of which are blocked or miss.

Rattray gets the puck in and centres for McIntosh, another timely save by Räty.

Rachel Llanes evades a couple of Thunder players but puts her shot wide.

Taylor Woods carries the puck out but Räty makes the glove save.

Play goes back and forth until Kunlun eventually ices the puck and we get a pause.

Darkangelo gets into the Markham zone with Woo but Howe stops the shot.

Markham get the puck into the offensive zone and have an extended time with an extra attacker on a delayed penalty. Shiann Darkangelo is called for a slash on Larocque.

Less than half a period left. The Thunder get a couple of shot attempts before Kunlun gets the puck out. Laura Stacey looks to have a good opportunity but loses control of the puck. Markham get set up again and keep possession but can’t find a shooting lane. Red Star get the puck out and the penalty expires with the Thunder in the neutral zone.

Jenna McParland tries a wraparound, anticipated by Räty.

Megan Bozek takes the puck in and goes on a tour of the Kunlun zone before dropping it off to Kristen Richards. Nothing doing.

Kosta and Fortino break up a rush by Kunlun. No shot on the other end.

McParland keeps the puck in the Kunlun zone a couple of times but misses the net.

Stack and Hickel combine for a shot but Howe stops it. Rattray tries taking the puck back out but overskates.

A second entry results in traffic in front of Räty but the puck refuses to go in.

Howe comes well out of her net to beat a charging Kunlun player to the puck. She doesn’t quite clear the zone but gets back in her crease before anything dangerous happens.

Final minute of the period starts with the Thunder in Red Star’s zone. The puck comes out but they get it back quickly and keep Raty busy.

Stack takes it out but can’t get very far into the zone.

Laura Stacey comes into the Kunlun zone with speed but is hauled down by Taylor Marchin. No call on the play, and this game is going to overtime.

Shots 11-5 for the Thunder again. For all there have been players complaining about the number of non-Chinese players on KRS, this game has really come down to just the one. Noora Räty and luck are the only two reasons the Thunder haven’t won this game already.

Overtime

We’re told this is going to be a five-minute four on four overtime.

Alex Carpenter gets the first opportunity in alone but Howe calmly handles the shot.

Rattray and Stacey get into the KRS zone, Rattray’s shot goes high.

Fortino takes a try but can’t beat Räty.

Bozek’s shot from the point gives a rebound for McParland. No dice.

It’s all Markham right now, chance after chance.

Nicole Kosta muscles the puck in close, passes it off to Laura Stacey with a nice backhanded pass through the slot, and the Olympic silver medalist wins the Clarkson Cup for her team with a diving shot!

So the Thunder’s first round picks from 2016 and 2017 combine for the overtime winner, and Markham’s first Clarkson Cup win.

Three stars

3. Kelli Stack Kunlun Red Star (1 goal)

2. Nicole Brown Markham Thunder (1 goal)

1. Laura Stacey (game winning goal)

MVP

Erica Howe, Markham Thunder

So that’s it for the 2017-18 CWHL season, but not the end of the hockey season for some of the Kunlun Red Star. Team China will be playing in the IIHF Division I Group B World Championships April 8 - 14 in Italy. That group includes South Korea, so it’ll be a closely watched Championships for those of us who are into international women’s hockey.