Montreal 5, Thunder 0: Domination From Top to Bottom

Les Canadiennes Earn Trip Back to Clarkson Cup Final

Les Canadiennes are headed to the Clarkson Cup final after a convincing 5-0 blowout over the Markham Thunder in game three of their series, Sunday afternoon. File Photo Caroline Marsh

“It’s huge. We knew we were capable of having a game like that […] it reiterated our confidence in our strengths,” said Canadiennes forward Jill Saulnier.

She and her teammates had just come off of the kind of performance every coach loves to see; dominant, hard working, and contributed to by the entire team.

Despite missing two top players in defender Erin Ambrose and league scoring champion Marie-Philip Poulin, the Fabs spent 60 minutes controlling play and punched their ticket to the Clarkson Cup final in two weeks, eliminating the Markham Thunder, who they fell to in the playoffs just last season.

In the do-or-die game three, despite a strong start, things looked like they could be headed towards a repeat of game two where Les Canadiennes fell behind early due to penalty trouble and just weren’t able to climb back into the game.

Just like the night before, the home team was penalized for delay of game. Instead of folding under the pressure though, they killed the penalty convincingly and took the momentum from a strong third period the night before and began to take over the game.

“We needed to switch things up on our penalty kill. It obviously didn’t work yesterday […] we made some in game adjustments and pre game adjustments and I think it worked out well,” said the game’s first star, Hilary Knight.

Suddenly, the rushes and scoring chances belonged almost entirely to Les Canadiennes who, despite a few missed chances, left for the dressing room up one-nothing on a goal by Melodie Daoust.

Once the second period began, it truly became a one sided game. The Canadiennes scored as many goals as the Thunder had shots through the second frame, outshooting the visitors 14-4.

Saulnier scored less than a minute and a half into the period, then two more goals followed in the next three minutes, and the team found the back of the net one more time before settling into the final 5-0 score.

“[It was] just the momentum. You just saw a sea of red. One line was going, the next line was going. That type of commitment to the pressure is going to wear down the other team. That’s why it was an overall team win,” said Knight, who scored four goals over the three game series.

Knight was certainly right about the sustained pressure. Every time a new line jumped on the ice for the Fabs, it seemed as if the Thunder faced a new, deadly threat. No line lagged behind or looked anything but dangerous.

It’s great for the team to get depth scoring and strong play, but it’s also good for the depth players like former Concordia Stinger Tracy-Ann Lavigne, who scored the game’s fifth goal with a high, short side shot that brought the crowd to their feet and got her celebrating.

“It means the world. It shows that we keep working hard and we can contribute by scoring goals. It’s just amazing,” she said of her chance to get on the scoresheet in such a crucial game.

While every line was integral to the win, the team’s top line of Knight, Saulnier, and Daoust completely controlled play every time they were on the ice. The three finished with a combined eight points on the game and had the Markham defence and goaltender working nonstop.

“I think they were dominating. It starts with [Saulnier] being a real warrior and using her speed to create. Knight just took her game to another level,” said co-head coach Caroline Ouellette. “She’s got it all. She’s strong, she’s powerful, she’s smart, she can shoot the puck. [Daoust] just got back into the game. Today, for me, was her best game. She could have had three goals easily.”

Aside from the forwards, the defenders gave strong performances as well, leaving Markham little to work with (just 17 shots) and jumping into the offence plenty as well.

While goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer didn’t see a storm of shots and heaped praise onto her teammates, she posted her second shutout of the series and allowed no goals at even strength during the three game series. When Markham mustered any major chances in game three, she stood tall, batting them away.

From start to finish, Les Canadiennes won just about every aspect of this game, earning their spot in the Clarkson Cup final after failing to reach it last season. Markham lost their chance to defend their championship title just as their opponents did last season.

Les Canadiennes now set their eyes on their next opponent, the Calgary Inferno, one of the league’s top contenders and the former team of several Canadiennes like Saulnier and Maschmeyer.

The teams will meet March 24 in Toronto for a single game matchup to decide the 2019 Clarkson Cup champions.