Monday, 14 March 2016

Drink It Up!

There's nothing like champagne out of a metal cup. Call me crazy, but it's one of the things that only a select few get to do. The Calgary Inferno added their names to that list with a dominant 8-3 win over Les Canadiennes de Montreal at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario that gave them their first Clarkson Cup in team history. I'm not sure anyone would have predicted the score to be what it ended up being, but the Inferno were a solid team all year and really looked focused in their series against Brampton. It ended up that that very focus was on display for sixty minutes on Sunday afternoon.

Rebecca Johnston, Brianne Jenner, Blayre Turnbull, Hayley Wickenheiser, and Jessica Campbell had outstanding games in the offensive zone with Turnbull picking up the hat trick. Meghan Mikkelson-Reid was outstanding in the defensive zone against CWHL leading scorer Marie-Philip Poulin, and the entire Inferno blue line showed great speed, skill, and tenacity in keeping the dangerous Canadiennes forwards out of scoring areas.

Playoff MVP Delayne Brian was outstanding in the blue paint, and the Winnipeg, Manitoba native was good on 38 shots to help the Inferno to the Clarkson Cup. While she was beat out by Charline Labonte for Goaltender of the Year on Friday night, I have a feeling she used that as motivation to play one of the best games I've ever seen her play. She made several saves that would be classified as grand larceny, and she kept the dangerous Montreal offence quiet.

The teams played in front of 4082 fans - a testament to the growing market that the CWHL is cultivating in Canada. Some will say that they need to focus their attentions on the Boston Blades after the problems they ran into this year, there's no doubt that Canadian fans are standing behind this product. Yes, I do agree the Blades need some special attention, but the growth of the CWHL in Canada is evident with this game being played in a neutral site.

There was some excellent coverage of the league as Sportsnet broadcast the Clarkson Cup Final and a few games throughout the season. I truly believe there needs to be more coverage from Canada's hockey network, but I don't sit in those meetings. Regardless, John Bartlett, Cassie Campbell-Pascale, and Jennifer Botterill did excellent work on the broadcasts, and I'd love to see more. Maybe have one women's game per week featured on Hockey Night in Canada or at least drop some highlight packages into Sportsnet's broadcasts and highlight shows.

In any case, this season has been outstanding. I really enjoyed the interaction among fans and players, and that's not just because we had CWHL stars Jenelle Kohanchuk, Candice Styles, and Fielding Montgomery on The Hockey Show. There was incredible work done by all players to make the fans part of the game, and that will pay off in the future.

On top of that, there were some mind-blowing plays this season that would make any hockey fan excited. Marie-Philip Poulin's goal against the Toronto Furies where she walked through four players was pretty nice. Rebecca Vint's shorthanded goal against the Calgary Inferno was a thing of beauty. Natalie Spooner's four-goal game was an amazing effort. Genevieve Lacasse simply withstanding 40 or 50 shots a night deserves respect. Of course, the Inferno stand alone as the best team in the league. There are stars all over the CWHL, and these women are just a few of the amazing players these five teams feature.

With the Inferno winning the Clarkson Cup last night, it was an unexpected score but a heckuva display of hockey from both teams. This was probably one of the most - if not THE most - successful season for the CWHL despite some direct competition from the league down south. I'm already excited for next season, and we're less than one day from the final play of the 2015-16 season.

It's like Commissioner Brenda Andress said after the game ended, “People always ask what can we do to grow the game, and I respond by saying buy a ticket - that simple. It's cheering for our women and showing them what they do is making a difference.”

I totally agree. Get out to the rink, buy a ticket or two, and support these amazing women. A number of them will wear Canada's colours next month at the Women's World Championship, and you can see them play all season long by buying tickets or purchasing the streaming package online. I promise you'll enjoy the product.

Congratulations to the CWHL Clarkson Cup Champions in the Calgary Inferno! Drink it up, ladies, because everyone is coming hunting for you next season! To everyone involved with, playing in, managing, or covering the CWHL, thank you for a tremendous season, and here's to an amazing 2016-17!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: