Clarkson Cup 2017 Preview: Calgary Inferno vs Les Canadiennes de Montreal

Date Sunday 5th March
FO Time 9pm GMT/4pm ET/1pm PT
Venue Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa (tickets from $20)
Broadcast Sportsnet (CA), http://www.thecwhl.com/sportsnet (international)

148 days since the CWHL season opened, it comes to a close in Ottawa on Sunday, as last season’s Clarkson Cup winners, the Calgary Inferno, face their closest rivals in Les Canadiennes de Montreal, in a repeat of last year’s final.

Calgary Inferno Regular Season Les Canadiennes
20-4-0 Record 17-5-2
1st Position 2nd
40 Points 36
100 Goals For 91
45 Goals Against 48
Head-To-Head
3 Wins 3
17 Goals 17

As it probably should be, first faces second to decide who takes the cup home. The Inferno only lost four games throughout the entire regular season – three of which were against their opponents on Sunday. With the same amount of games won each, with the same amount of goals scored against the other, you really couldn’t get much closer between the two.

Overall, the Inferno scored more goals in the regular season, and conceded less goals, than their Montreal counterparts, but as the head-to-head shows, Montreal know how to beat the Inferno.

Let’s take a look at how the two teams reached the final.

Calgary Inferno (1) Les Canadiennes (2)
 2-5, 3-1, 3-1 Calgary Inferno Les Canadiennes 7-1, 5-1
Toronto Furies (4) Brampton Thunder (3)
Calgary Inferno Playoff Scoring Leaders Les Canadiennes
 Iya Gavrilova (3) Goals Kim Deschenes (3)
 Brianne Jenner (3) Assists Kathy Chartrand (4)
Caroline Ouellete (4)
Brianne Jenner (4) Points Kathy Chartrand (5)
Brianne Jenner (1.33) Points/Game Kathy Chartrand (2.5)

The top seed Inferno took three games to get past a resiliant Toronto Furies. Furies netminder Christina Kessler faced 140 shots over those three games, and very much kept her team in it. That said, the Inferno found a way, and they’re back in the final.

It was a much simpler affair for Les Canadiennes, taking only two games to score 12 goals and make light work of the Brampton Thunder. They may feel a bit fresher for having played one less game.

Calgary Inferno Regular Season Scoring Leaders Les Canadiennes
Bailey Bram (12) Goals Ann-Sophie Bettez (18)
Brianne Jenner (18) Assists Marie-Philip Poulin (22)
Brianne Jenner (27) Points Marie-Philip Poulin (37)
Haley Irwin (3) Game Winning Goals Marie-Philip Poulin (6)
Jacquie Pierri (48) Highest PIMs Cathy Chartrand (30)

Les Canadiennes had the higher scorers, but the Inferno’s scoring was more spread through the team. Eighteen Inferno skaters scored goals, while 24 members of their roster got at least a point, while 13 different skaters had game-winners, whereas only 15 members of the Canadiennes roster scored, and 21 registered points. They also only had nine skaters who notched game-winners.

There are certainly more players on the Inferno roster who could be scoring threats, but the bigger threats on the Canadiennes are more potent.

Calgary Inferno Regular Season Special Teams Les Canadiennes
 20 (18/90) Powerplay % 24.7 (22/89)
Iya Gravilova (3)
Brianne Jenner (3)
Jill Saulnier (3)
PPG Leaders Caroline Ouellette (5)
87 (12/92) Penalty Kill % 85.4 (13/89)
 4 Shorthanded Goals 7

The best powerplay in the CWHL meets the best penalty kill. Les Canadiennes will want to get their powerplay working, but will come up against tough competition in the Inferno. Both team’s opposing units aren’t slouches either. The Inferno’s poweplay was third in the league by 0.2%, while Les Canadienne’s PK was second only to their opponents.

The scoring while on the advantage is also indicative of how both teams work. The Inferno leaders are spread over the team, while Les Canadiennes look more to individuals.

The Inferno will have to be careful while on the PP though – the 7 shorthanders Les Canadiennes scored was equal to the combined total from the other four sides.

The key battle, for me, will be between the two women in between the pipes.

Netminders
Calgary Inferno Regular Season Les Canadiennes
 Emerance Maschmeyer (.946, 8GP) Save %  Charline Labonté (.934, 15GP)
 Genevieve Lacasse (.921, 9GP)  Catherine Herron (.893, 9GP)
Delayne Brian (.917, 7GP)
Calgary Inferno Playoffs Les Canadiennes
Genevieve Lacasse (.966, 2GP) Save % Charline Labonté (.960, 2GP)
 Emerance Maschmeyer (.846, 1GP)

Both teams have had pretty reliable goaltending for the majority of the season. Les Canadiennes have leaned heavily on Charline Labonté, and she repaid their faith by only allowing 23 goals in 15 games. She’ll be getting the start on Sunday.

The Inferno’s goal is a different matter. They have been able to spread their goaltending pretty evenly throughout the year, between last year’s Clarkson Cup MVP Delayne Brian, trade acquisition Genevieve Lacasse, and drafted sensation Emerance Maschmeyer. All three have been reliable throughout the year, but Maschmeyer had a rough game in game one against Toronto, Lacasse took over for game two, and allowed just two goals from 58 shots. You’d imagine the Inferno go with the hot hand, but there are three high-calibre netminders to choose from.

In summary, it’s going to be a hell of a game, and it’s probably going to take a moment of genius from someone to split the sides. I imagine it will be more of a contest than last year’s dominant Inferno win.

Make sure you catch the action wherever you are, either via Sportsnet if you’re in Canada, or via the CWHL website if you’re not.

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