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CWHL

Les Canadiennes avenge last year's thumping, defeat Inferno for CWHL title

Don Brennan. (ERROL MCGIHON/Ottawa Sun)

By Don Brennan, Ottawa Sun

Les Canadiennes de Montreal pose for a team picture after defeating the Calgary Inferno for the 2017 Clarkson Cup at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa on Sunday March 5, 2017. (Ashley Fraser/Postmedia)

Les Canadiennes de Montreal pose for a team picture after defeating the Calgary Inferno for the 2017 Clarkson Cup at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa on Sunday March 5, 2017. (Ashley Fraser/Postmedia)

OTTAWA - 

The sting from a year earlier was still very much with Les Canadiennes de Montreal on Sunday.

When they took the ice to face the Calgary Inferno for the Clarkson Cup at Canadian Tire Centre, the 8-3 loss they suffered to the same team, in the same championship game, was fresh on their minds.

“Yes, it was there,” Canadiennes captain Marie-Philip Poulin said convincingly, with a growing grin, when asked about the revenge factor. “I think it’s been 365 days that we’ve been waiting for that game. We were really ready.”

That much was evident.

From the opening faceoff the Canadiennes took control, and only loosened their grip while trying to protect a third period lead.

In the end, after claiming a 3-1 victory, they jumped the boards, threw their helmets, gloves, and sticks in the air like championship winners do, and swarmed goalie Charline Labonte in an on-ice celebration that lasted at least a half hour after the final buzzer.

Presumably, it’s not still going on.

“It’s pretty special, to be honest, with the group that we had,” said Poulin, who lived up to her billing as the best player in women’s hockey by scoring two goals, including an empty-netter with 1:52 left on the clock that she referred to as “a breather, a good breath” of relief.

“Having the chance to play with your best friends … it’s my second family. When you play as a team good things happen for sure.”

Katia Clement-Heydra had the other Canadiennes goal while Jill Saulnier scored Calgary’s goal, with just over seven minutes left in the third, to provide some hope.

While the Canadiennes are now 4-3 in Clarkson Cup finals, the defending champion Inferno have now won one and lost one.

“I think we came out a little flat in the first and just took too long to get things going,” said Calgary captain Brianne Jenner. “I believe we had a chance at the end. We thought we had the momentum but, sometimes it doesn’t go your way.”

The first period saw Montreal hold an 11-5 shot advantage and score the only goal, a power-play effort at the 12:39 mark when Heydra knocked a puck down with her hand and made a nice move before flipping a shot behind Calgary goalie Emerance Maschmeyer.

Noemie Marin and Karell Emard earned the assists.

Poulin had the lone goal of the second period at the 5:24 mark with a shot that fooled Maschmeyer. Skating in on a 1-on-1 rush, her wrister from the high slot eluded the defender and when Maschmeyer reached out to snare it, the puck hit her glove and slithered through her legs before slowly sliding over the goal line.

Cathy Chartrand and Julie Chu were credited with the assists.

“Poulin does a really good job of shooting through the D,” said Maschmeyer. “She kind of used the D as a screen, and I lost it a little bit through the legs of my D. Thought I had it but it trickled in.”

Maschmeyer admitted to feeling nervousness when learning that she would get the start.

“I feel like if you don’t have nerves, you don’t care. So of course there’s nerves behind a big game. But you can’t treat it any different than another game. I was excited to get the start for sure. It was an honour.

“As a goalie you want to take back every goal,” she added. “I wish I would have stopped those two. But I’m playing against great players and unfortunately, they know how to score sometimes too.”

Calgary capitalized on a defensive zone miscue when Rebecca Johnston intercepted a pass behind the net and quickly moved it in front to Saulnier, who one-timed a short shot behind Labonte.

The Inferno pulled went with an extra attacker as over two minutes remained on the clock, but the move backfired.

“I wanted to get as many shots as possible, because that’s usually how I get to my best,” said Labonte, who would be worthy of nomination as one of the game’s three stars. “I could see that Maschmeyer was very strong, but we put so much pressure on them that I feel like we controlled most of the game.

“That’s exactly what we wanted. So I made the saves I had to make, and my teammates made a lot of blocked shots for me as well.

“It was awesome.”

No attendance figures were announced, but estimates were in the 4,000 range. With a nationally televised audience watching, however, it was also a another win for women’s hockey.

“I think we showed it’s really growing,” said Poulin. “This year every game was hard fought. I think it shows what’s going on with women’s hockey.

“On the world side, international, Finland, USA, Sweden ... they all come, and it’s really hard. I think it shows it’s really growing.”