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Boston Blades take season opener 2-0 against Montreal Stars

Gen Lacasse and Charline Labonté together as teammates for Team Canada in Sochi.  The two faced off at Desmarteau Rink in the CWHL season opener.
Gen Lacasse and Charline Labonté together as teammates for Team Canada in Sochi. The two faced off at Desmarteau Rink in the CWHL season opener.
Martin Rose

When I want to follow an NHL game, I have loads of options. I now subscribe to NHL Gamecenter, which is a technological godsend as a Penguins fan living in Boston, and every team has its own radio stream online.  And if you can't afford Gamecenter and you can't watch on TV, it's pretty easy to find the game online--once you know where to look.

The Canadian Women's Hockey League isn't broadcast anywhere else, so they've been able to corner the market on their own live streaming. You can purchase a season pass for all 23 games that they will be streaming live for just $10. (Please, do this.) Sportsnet will also be broadcasting the playoffs this year and for at least the next three years, so the Clarkson Cup is guaranteed ongoing exposure. The playoffs are, after all, how you rope in new fans--the Pens-Rangers series in 2008 is what got me hooked on the NHL.

The CWHL's Boston Blades opened their season in Montreal Saturday night against the Montreal Stars.  Despite some streaming hiccups (well-acknowledged by @SSNCanada and @cwhl_insider), I was able to follow a game that I would not have been able to see otherwise, and it was an excellent game. At least, if you were rooting for the Blades it was pretty great. (Sorry, Stars--your Twitter is adorable though.)

The game started slow and the teams traded chances against the Blades' Geneviève Lacasse and the Stars' Charline Labonté, both Quebecois goalies who were teammates for Canada in Sochi this past winter. The Blades proved throughout the game to be the superior passing team, and their first goal from Kelly Cooke was the result of an excellent passing play off the rush that got Labonté moving from right to left towards the end of the first period.

The scoreless second period was much more exciting (though I might be saying that just because the stream was finally working). The Stars outworked the Blades in this period, outshooting them 11-9 and really turning on the pressure after the Blades switched goaltenders halfway through the game. (Presumably the goaltender switch came to give Brittany Ott some ice time--the Blades didn't have much time to practice together and their first time playing together was their exhibition last week against BU.) The teams traded power play chances--both looked excellent with the Blades in particular showing lots of movement on the advantage. On the Stars' PP, the Blades actually got a 3 on 1 rush the other way shorthanded, but Labonté and Caroline Oullette were able to keep the puck out.

Oullette was the standout player for the Stars all evening, frequently making great plays on the backcheck and threatening around the Blades' net. Ott had to make several sparkling glove saves on her.

The Blades' special teams gave them another goal in the third period, when the Stars' Emilie Bocchia was penalized for bodychecking. It took only 16 seconds for the Blades to capitalize, as Jenny Potter fed a pass to Alyssa Gagliardi at the left point. Her shot rocketed past Labonté to put the Blades up 2-0. Gagliardi's presence on the back end had generated many offensive chances for the Blades throughout the game--she kept Labonté busy with slapshots.

At 16:56, Blake Bolden went off for holding, and it seemed like one good PK would seal the deal for Boston. However, Tara Watchorn flipped the puck over the glass 44 seconds later for a delay of game minor, and Labonté was pulled with 1:21 remaining to give the Stars a 6 on 3 advantage. Heroic penalty killing by Hilary Knight, Kacey Bellamy, and Gagliardi kept the Stars to the outside and they were able to change when the first penalty expired. Potter and Jessica Koizumi managed to get the puck to the other end of the ice, but Koizumi hit the post of the empty net. It didn't matter, however: time expired to give the Blades the 2-0 win.

Not a bad introduction to my coverage of the Blades' regular season. Remember: the talent level on each CWHL team is incredibly high, making every game highly competitive in ways you aren't used to seeing night in and night out in NHL games over the course of an 82-game season in a 30-team league. Catch some of these games if you don't already. I had Penguins-Islanders on at the same time, and while the Penguins game had its own share of heroic penalty killing to get the win, Blades-Stars was just as if not more exciting.

NEXT GAME: October 25th, 4pm at Bright-Landry Hockey Center, exhibition vs. Harvard Crimson.  I will try to be there!