Janine Weber’s goal at 2:12 of overtime gave the Boston Blades a 3-2 win over the Montreal Stars, giving the team its second Clarkson Cup in three years under coach Digit Murphy.
The winning goal came off a turnover in the centre-ice area. Tara Watchorn brought the puck over the Montreal zone and made a perfect pass to Weber in front of her. She drilled a quick shot over the glove of goaltender Charline Labonte.
Weber, a 23-year-old native of Innsbruck, Austria, is one of the few Europeans in the CWHL. She played last year with the Providence Friars in NCAA hockey and has played for Austria at six Women’s World Championships outside the top level.
"It's the biggest goal I've ever scored," Weber said. "I saw an opening on the high-glove side. It happened so fast. I didn't even realize what had happened. It was just one of those moments when you shoot it and hope it goes in. Winning the Clarkson Cup is everyone’s dream. Just looking at it is amazing.”
Unlike women’s hockey in IIHF events, the CWHL plays its championship overtime five skaters a side and unlimited overtime. No shootout.
It was the third straight appearance for the Blades in the final game. Last year they lost in OT to the Toronto Furies, and they won it all in 2013. This marks the 6th time the CWHL has awarded the Clarkson Cup, emblematic of women’s pro hockey supremacy in North America.
The game was close only because of the goaltending of Labonte in the Montreal net. After posting consecutive shutouts in the semi-finals, she was sensational as Boston outshot Montreal by a count of 28-15. Labonte was named tournament MVP despite being on the losing end.
The Stars opened the scoring just 31 seconds after the opening faceoff when Ann-Sophie Bettez controlled a shot off the end boards and pulled it in front quickly, jamming it in past Genevieve Lacasse in the Boston net.
Boston captain – and longtime Team USA forward – Hilary Knight tied the game late in the period on the power play. Kacey Bellamy spotted her to the side of the goal and threaded a nice pass through a maze of players, leaving Knight with an easy tap-in to make it a 1-1 game.
The entertaining second period was dominated by the Blades, but after 40 minutes the score remained 1-1.
Brianna Decker, however, counted a beautiful power-play goal at 6:18 of the third to put the visitors ahead. She beat a man in the corner and as she skated to the middle she held the puck as Stars players committed early. Decker then fired a high shot over the shoulder of Labonte. It was her fifth goal in just three games of the Clarkson Cup playoffs.
Emmanuelle Blais tied the game at 9:54 thanks to a fine play by Lauriane Rougeau. Rougeau broke up a Boston rush at her own blue line and then lugged the puck deep into the Blades end. Her shot hit Caroline Ouellette’s skate and then bounced off the skate of Blais and in.
Lacasse objected, arguing the forward kicked the puck in, but the referee ruled that contact with the skate was accidental and there was no distinct kicking motion. Game tied, 2-2.
Neither team could settle matters in the remaining minutes of the third, and the game headed to overtime where Weber provided the heroics.
Next up for many of these players, from Knight to Ouellette and many in between, is the Women’s Worlds in Malmo, Sweden at the end of the month. And for the CWHL, another successful season is in the books.