Four different Stars scored on Delayne Brian and Camille Trautman and Charline Labonte made 30 saves as Montreal took Game 1 of the Clarkson Cup playoffs handily over the Inferno, 4-0.
The game began as usual for the Inferno, with a scoreless first period as both teams pressured and felt each other out. Then the Stars struck three minutes into the second period on a delayed penalty, with Caroline Ouellette getting the goal. (Labonte earned a secondary assist for her effort in clearing the zone.) Noemie Marin tacked on another after deking around the defenseman covering her, making it her eleventh point in nine games (stretching back to the beginning of February). Though the Inferno attempted to break out offensively, they missed passes and failed to really get a crack at solving Labonte.
Calgary started the third period with a penalty by Aina Takeuchi, which came back to bite them as Kim Deschenes capitalized on the ensuing power play for Montreal. At this point, Brian was pulled in favor of Trautman. Finally, Ann-Sophie Bettez put the game to bed coming out of the penalty box, making it 4-0 on her rush up the ice. Labonte stopped the final 10 shots the Inferno threw at her to preserve the shutout and give Montreal the advantage in the series, 1-0.
This is a tough one to swallow if you're the Inferno. They did a lot right -- Rebecca Johnston and the offense threw a ton of shots at Labonte, the penalty kill was busy but effective aside from the Deschenes goal, and individual players did great work. They also needed to connect on passes, be sharper getting into the zone and getting at Labonte early, as well as do a better job of protecting Brian (and later on, Trautman). Once they did start pressuring the Stars goaltender, it was a little too late. However, that's what a Game 2 is for -- fixing those mistakes and regrouping for a shot at pushing a tiebreaker.
Speaking of... Game 2 is set for Thursday evening at 5 p.m. MST (7 p.m. EST) in Markham. Remember, you can buy a streaming package to watch all of the games, or you can catch them on Sportsnet, OR you can wait till Friday morning and catch them on NHL Network in the U.S. (schedule here)
Boston 3, Toronto 0: Brianna Decker scored a natural hat trick as the Blades took Game 1 over the Furies, 3-0. Check out Zoe Hayden's write-up at Stanley Cup of Chowder for more info.
Notes: The CWHL Awards Gala was Wednesday night. Inferno forward Rebecca Johnston is taking home the Angela James Bowl and the league's MVP award as the top scorer in the CWHL this season, with 37 points in 24 games. Brianna Decker of the Blades won Rookie of the Year for her incredible scoring pace over the back half of the season, while Charline Labonte took Goaltender of the Year and Tara Watchorn of Boston won honors as the league's top defenseman. Montreal's Dany Brunet won Coach of the Year, presumably for his coaching of the Stars through their rough patch into second place in the league. All are well-deserved honors for the league's top talent.