MARKHAM, Ont. — Forward Kelley Steadman had a natural hat trick to lead the Boston Blades to a 5-2 victory over the Montreal Stars on Saturday afternoon for their first Clarkson Cup in franchise history.
Jen Schoullis had the other two goals for Boston while goalie Geneviève Lacasse made 40 saves for the win.
The final Boston goal was an empty-netter, but its first four came on the power play. Montreal failed to capitalize on its seven opportunities with the extra skater.
“Absolutely, it came down to [special teams],” says Lacasse. “We had a couple of good ones on the power play and we did a good job killing, a lot of blocked shots from the players.”
Boston’s top offensive talents were goalless, but the production from its lesser-known players provided motivation for the rest of the team.
“Typically, [Hilary] Knight, [Meghan] Duggan, and [Kate] Buesser are the ones we go to, but it really fuels the team when another line does well,” said Digit Murphy, head coach of the Blades.
“The coaches, we talked about it and even the players, they’re not selfish. They’re like, go with those guys, they’re doing it.”
Schoullis opened up the scoring with a deflection off a point shot on the power play at 10:18 of the first period.
After she added another power-play goal early in the second period, Montreal stormed back with two goals of their own.
Forward Meghan Agosta-Marciano cut the lead in half just 32 seconds later with her first goal and only goal at the Clarkson Cup tournament this year.
Less than five minutes later, Dominique Thibault tied the game with wrist shot from the point.
The Blades quickly responded on the power play, with Steadman burying a rebound from a Caitlin Cahow shot at 8:51.
Montreal never got back into the game despite an extended 5-on-3 situation midway through the third period.
With Anne Schleper, Steadman, and Gigi Marvin making trips to the box in quick succession, the Stars were given almost three and a half minutes of 5-on-3 time, during which most of their shots came from the perimeter.
“We know Montreal has really great shots, so you want to dissuade them from making that quick pass as much as possible,” said Cahow, the Boston captain.
“Our sticks were in passing lanes, some of the best penalty-killing we’ve done. That kind of momentum switch is huge.”
Steadman’s second goal came with less than three minutes left in the third period and was too much to overcome for a Montreal team that was already scrambling.
Catherine Ward, the CWHL Defenceman of the Year for the 2012-13 season and the Clarkson Cup tournament MVP, was understandably disappointed despite the accolades.
“For sure it’s a great honour and I feel really privileged,” says Ward. “The team had such a great tournament which helped me, I think. Without our team’s performance, I don’t think I would have been able to [win those awards].
“The most important was the Cup. It’s nice to have a tap behind the back, but in the end, it’s not the right prize.”
Roughly 1200 people were on hand to watch the hotly-anticipated rematch of Friday’s thrilling 1-0 overtime win by Montreal and most of them were hoping for a repeat.
The Stars’ coach, Phillippe Trahan, was dejected after Saturday’s loss, but was also thankful for the support the league has gotten from everyone involved.
“It’s always fun to go somewhere and have people cheer for you,” said Trahan. “We’re very fortunate that girls’ parents drove all the way from Montreal to come here. It’s too bad we didn’t get the final cheer, but it’s very appreciated by the players.”
On a night in which Montreal lost, women’s hockey won.
Julie Chu, the Stars defenceman who also captains the U.S. women’s national team, has noticed a steady improvement in the CWHL with each passing year.
“I’m a proud member of the CWHL and I think we’ve come a long way,” says Chu. “There’s an incredible staff of volunteers that are here and are dedicated to growing the game and I think the players are just as committed, so a combination of both makes for a league being better and better every year.”
Asked about how far the CWHL has come, Trahan again expressed gratitude to the league’s supporters, but made a sobering comment as to how far women’s hockey is behind the men.
“If [the volunteers and sponsors] weren’t there, girls would be playing pick-up hockey,” he said. “I can only see a better CWHL next year and even better in a few years. Hopefully we’ll still have the involvement of the big sponsors and more.”