The CWHL All-Star Game was last week, but this weekend, 17 of the 34 players in that game will be playing for more than bragging rights as the CWHL's top two teams and pre-season favourites face off at the Etienne-Desmarteau arena in Montreal on Saturday evening.
Les Canadiennes (14-2-0) start the weekend two points back of the Calgary Inferno (14-2-2), and have two games in hand but first place will likely be won or lost in the four games the two teams have left this season. This is Calgary's only visit to Montreal. Calgary hosted the first series between the two teams, which was split a game apiece and will host them again on February 13-14.
"We're trying to continue to get better every weekend we play," said Inferno forward Hayley Wickenheiser. "We have to clean up our habits in our own end and take less penalties and continue to play quick and fast all over the ice," she said.
The Inferno lead the league with 82 goals scored this season, while Montreal has the league's stingiest defence with only 21 goals allowed - less than half any other team in the league.
"It will be a good game," said Canadiennes forward and CWHL leading scorer Marie-Philip Poulin. "It's really tight at the top of the standings and every time you get to play the best in the league, it's something to look forward to."
Wickenheiser and Poulin were teammates on Team Black at the All-Star game. Poulin was linemates with Calgary's Jill Saulnier in the game.
Today's game is the team's annual fundraiser for breast cancer research. 60 per cent of gate receipts will go directly to the Cedars Breast Clinic and the team will have lots of items up for auctions to raise money as well. The players, as is tradition, will wear pink jerseys for the first period that will then be taken home by auction winners and Wickenheiser has said that she will also put her jersey up for auction at the game.
This game is more than the two best hockey players of our generation. Fifteen other all-stars will be taking part including three in the top-five of league scoring in Ann-Sophie Bettez of Montreal and Brianne Jenner and Emily Lovell of Calgary. Goaltenders Charline Labonté and Delayne Brian will also be expected to get the starts for their respective teams.
It will be interesting to see how Montreal will lineup for this game, as last weekend they split up their top line of Bettez, Poulin and Caroline Ouellette putting Noémie Marin with Poulin and Ouellette and Bettez was with sophomore Kim Deschênes and rookie Katia Clement-Heydra.
First place seems to be even more important this year as finishing first means avoiding whoever finishes third between these two teams and the feisty Brampton Thunder who sit just two points back of Montreal.
Calgary has yet to lose a road game in regulation, while Montreal is a perfect 6-0-0 at home this year.
Puck drop is at 5:30 p.m. but due to the popularity of the game, fans are asked to show up early as seating is not assigned. Tickets are available here or at the door at the Etienne-Desmarteau arena in Rosemont. The game will also be broadcast on CWHL Live with EOTP's very own Robyn Flynn part of the broadcast team alongside John Bower.