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Blades advance on Hilary Knight's hat trick, and Labonté's glove ends the Inferno's season

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The Blades' offense delivered another transcendent performance, propelling them into a Clarkson Cup Final matchup against Charline Labonté who is nothing short of transcendent herself. Plus, Tessa Bonhomme and Kelsey Webster reflect on their teams' seasons ending.

Janine Weber, Hilary Knight, and Brianna Decker celebrate Weber's second goal of the game on the power play in Game 2 of their Clarkson Cup playoff series
Janine Weber, Hilary Knight, and Brianna Decker celebrate Weber's second goal of the game on the power play in Game 2 of their Clarkson Cup playoff series
Brandon Taylor, CWHL

The Toronto Furies came out hard after puck drop in their Game 2 against the Boston Blades, but the wheels fell off in the second period, and the Blades are on their way to the Clarkson Cup Final. 

Brittany Ott started instead of Geneviève Lacasse and the Furies didn't waste any time breaking her in, as she had to make three saves on the first shift of the game alone.  The teams traded power play chances in the first, leading to a much quicker pace--and more scoring.  The Blades would convert first, with Hilary Knight parking herself beside Christina Kessler's net to knock it home following the point shot by Tara Watchorn.

Knight went to the box afterwards, however, after interfering with Jessica Vella in the neutral zone, and Toronto would get their first goal of the series right off the faceoff from Megan Bozek with a precise slapshot.  The Furies would be shorthanded again, however, with Kori Cheverie in the box.  Knight got her second, again parked right in front of the net, following work at the points by Watchorn and Monique Lamoureux.

Tessa Bonhomme tied the game at 2-2 on the power play, with Knight in the box yet again.  Carolyne Prevost won the faceoff, passing it to the middle to Kelly Terry, who was able to shuffle it to Bonhomme.  Bonhomme placed her shot perfectly glove side, and the Furies celebrated the goal passionately.  But there were still 40 minutes to play.

In the second period, it took just three and a half minutes for the Blades to bury their first even strength goal of the game.  Knight flipped a backhand pass from the boards across the paint to Casey Pickett, who was lurking backdoor to get a stick on it, putting the Blades ahead 3-2.  Kessler kept the game close, making breakaway saves on both Decker and Pickett as the Toronto defense lost their neutral zone.  The Furies would get an extended 5 on 3 opportunity, and Ott held the line.  But after the penalties expired, Jordan Smelker and Janine Weber were able to create a 2 on 1, and Weber took the shot pass to put it behind Kessler to increase the lead to 4-2.

Toronto called a timeout, but that didn't calm things down much.  The Blades would get another PP, and Weber would get her second while parked next to the post.  With the score at 5-2 in the second, there was still hope of a comeback, but Knight would net her hat trick with just 14 seconds left in the period, on a laser shot from the right circle.

The Furies went with Sami Jo Small for the third period with the score at 6-2.  The Blades got their 7th on the power play after Lamoureux faked at the point and passed through traffic around Small, and Decker was able to tap it in.  Toronto wasn't finished yet, however, and with about five minutes to go, the Furies' Tanis Lamoureux beat Ott off the rush, bringing the score to 7-3.  In the final minute, with Kacey Bellamy in the box, Ott was able to make a few more saves before the horn, but the score would hold.  The Blades celebrated, and the Furies are going home.

Quotes, odds and ends

  • The Blades deployed their depth forwards more frequently, letting Knight and Decker take a rest.  The Denna Laing/Bray Ketchum/Kelly Cooke line was used in the second and third periods after Boston had taken the lead.
  • Tessa Bonhomme, on their power play finally clicking:
    "You know, coming into this game we knew that our number one goal was to leave everything we had out there.  And we knew that yesterday we had a lot of opportunities on the power play and we were upset about the fact that we couldn't convert on any of them.  So we kind of got together as a group and looked at the way they were defending us.  We kind of figured out where the holes were [on their penalty kill], they were kind of over-committing on the wall."
    On the Blades' depth and her own team, and Blake Bolden:
    "Unfortunately, the other end of the straw is that our PK kind of dropped off. I feel like that's what propelled them and gave them the edge. Five on five, I thought we were pretty good. Their power play was just unbelievably strong. But what are you gonna do? You've got five of the best Olympians on that team. You can throw Blake Bolden in the mix. I think she should be somewhere in the roster on Team USA based on her skating speed, hockey knowledge, and just overall skill. So they're a deep club, coached by a good coach, and not taking anything anything away from our game, I thought we left our blood, sweat, and tears out there. . . Now we know. We take this as a team, as a learning opportunity, we digest it. We enjoy tonight together as a team. And then we start preparing for next year."

  • Monique Lamoureux, on running the power play:
    "Watchorn and I, we communicate a lot on the bench about what we want to run on the power play, and we ran a couple switches, and when she came across the middle and passed it back to me I seemed to have a lot of time and space to kind of step in and look for the shot, but every time I kinda got a little closer it seemed that it opened up a passing lane for somebody else, so I just dished it.  I think Knighter put one home and then Decker put the other one home."
    On the team using its depth:
    "At the end of the year, when you have that secondary scoring, that's usually a team that's going to come away with it.  I think it was huge to have that today."
    On their next game for the Cup:
    "I haven't been in any of the games we've played against Montreal.  Those two games we forfeited, and I had other obligations the other weekends, so just for my own selfish reasons I would like to play Montreal because I haven't played them yet.  But Calgary's obviously a great team too.  Whoever we get, we're going to get some good hockey."
  • Janine Weber, on her 2 goals and team effort:
    "The first goal, Smelker just set me up perfectly and I wanted to just tap it in.  And on the power play, I'm just in front of the net, so if there's a puck I'm just going to get it in.  We had a tough time scoring yesterday, but we kept doing our thing.  And I think today it worked for us.  We played our game."

That Other Series

Monique Lamoureux is going to get her wish, since the Montreal Stars defeated the Calgary Inferno by a score of 2 to 0 Thursday night.  Emmanuelle Blais scored the game winner at 16:36 of the first off the rush, but the real action was still to come in the second period.  The game became increasingly physical, with players piling up along the boards and in the corners in ferocious puck battles.  The Inferno got a break when an apparent Montreal power play goal was waved off due to the official intending to blow the whistle on the play, and they completed the kill.  Calgary really tested Labonté, swarming in her crease at every available opportunity.  Labonté made the save of the tournament on Louise Warren towards the end of the second, when Warren took a wrist shot from in tight into a seemingly wide open cage.  Everyone thought it was in, including the entire Inferno bench, but it was actually in Labonté's glove.  It was lightning quick, blink-and-you-missed it, and the best moment of her shutout streak.  Mariève Provost would reward Labonté by scoring at the other end on her next shift.  Despite mad scrambling and relentless forechecking by both teams in the third period, the score would hold at 2-0, and the clock would tick down on the Calgary Inferno.

  • Mariéve Provost, on the physicality of the game:
    "I like when the play is physical.  I wish we could play physical like this all year.  It's just good to be hit and go on the boards."
    On Labonté's performance, and reaction glove save on Warren:
    "She was amazing and she did a crazy save at the end of the second period, and it just was a turning point.  We scored a goal right after this.  So it was the magic save.  Like, I never saw something like this before."
  • Ann-Sophie Bettez, on facing Boston:
    "Well, we haven't beat them yet this season.  So [I'm looking forward to] definitely getting a win for the first time this season.  They're a good team: goalie, defense, and offensively.  I think it'll be a great matchup, and I'm excited for it."
  • Inferno captain Kelsey Webster, on her team, and Sarah Davis:
    "[I'm proud of] all of them, for the record.  I think that Sarah Davis did a fantastic job, we wanted to get in Charline Labonté's face and she was best by far at that.  She took the hits she needed to take in order to make the play and vice versa, so I would give the credit for that to Sarah Davis."
    On bringing this energy to next season:
    "If we can start the way we just finished, our team will be unstoppable.  I truly believe that.  And we'll be holding up the Clarkson Cup at the end of the season."

The Stars and Blades have a day off tomorrow.  The Clarkson Cup Final will be at 2:00PM on Saturday at the Centennial Centre.  It will air live on Sportsnet and the next day on NHL Network, and if you don't mind paying the $10CAD for just one game, you can also visit CWHL.ca to purchase the streaming package.

As for me: I've tried to be as neutral as possible in my coverage of this tournament, but I couldn't be more excited about this Final matchup.  The Blades games against Montreal last weekend were incredibly good hockey.  Charline Labonté is currently on a completely different level, but the Blades' offense is also, generally, on that superhuman plane of existence.  It's the best all-around scoring in the league coming up against the smartest, most experienced defensive core, and the best goaltender.  It's going to be like fire and water, and I'm looking forward to it immensely.  I hope you've all cleared your Saturday afternoons for this.  I'm serious.