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Les Canadiennes host Calgary Inferno at the Bell Centre

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Last year’s Clarkson Cup finalists do battle on the big stage.

Shanna Martin / EOTP

Home of a storied franchise and host to big teams and big names, the Bell Centre in Montreal is no stranger to great hockey.

A building that is as much an ode to the classic sport, names, and faces that were instrumental in bringing 24 Stanley Cups to Montreal as it is a home for today’s players and fans alike, the Bell Centre’s electricity is something that is entirely unique to Montreal: a city that eats, sleeps, lives, and breathes hockey.

But the Montreal Canadiens aren’t the only team that makes hockey in this city so great.

With a strong history in their own right, Les Canadiennes (formerly the Montreal Stars) have managed to build a legacy in the small, young league. Having claimed the Clarkson Cup three of the eight times it’s been awarded in the CWHL, the team from Montreal has a reputation for greatness; and rightly so. With more Clarkson Cups than any other CWHL team, Montreal has consistently performed year after year, coming out on top of the standings all but twice.

To celebrate the CWHL’s 10th anniversary every team has been invited to host the Heritage Classic to celebrate their stars over that time. What better venue than a building that is brimming with hockey history in the second year of their partnership with the Canadiens.

In their first ever Bell Centre game, Les Canadiennes will face off against their biggest threat to the Clarkson Cup — the Calgary Inferno — in a matchup that is sure to thrill hockey fans of all kinds.

This will mark the first time these two teams have met since Montreal fell to the Inferno in the 2016 Clarkson Cup Final, where the team just could not beat the remarkable goaltending of Delayne Brian, who stopped 38 of the 41 shots that came her way. It was game that saw Calgary’s big guns stepping up to the plate, with the likes of Rebecca Johnston, Blayre Turnbull, Jessica Campbell and Brianne Jenner all potting two goals apiece, while Montreal’s own star power was kept at bay thanks to the fantastic effort between the pipes.

Needless to say, last March’s 8-3 defeat will have Les Canadiennes fired up and searching for redemption in a season-highlighting marquee game. And what a game it should be.

After a patchy few weekends that saw Montreal lose their position atop the standings after going 1-2-1 in series against Toronto and Brampton, Les Canadiennes finally regained their spot in first place with resounding 5-0 and 10-0 victories over the Boston Blades last weekend.

Contributions came from veterans and rookies, forwards and defenders, and Caroline Ouellette’s name was all over the scoresheet, having been involved in six of the weekend’s 15 goals (5G, 1A).

Ann-Sophie Bettez also had five points in the series, and Montreal’s rookie defender, Cassandra Poudrier, nabbed two goals (Saturday) and an assist (Sunday) to combine for just a fraction of the effort that went into collecting two much-needed victories.

Ouellette will look to net her 300th career point this weekend; a milestone equivalent to 1000 NHL points given the short seasons of the CWHL. She will certainly need to be a key contributor against a team that can once again grab first place in the league, as Calgary trails Montreal by just a single point. Calgary does have two games in hand.

The Inferno’s one and only loss came against Brampton in mid-November, but just like Les Canadiennes, returned to their dominating ways in 5-1 and 9-2 victories over Boston at the end of the month.

For her part, Calgary captain Brianne Jenner also notched six points in her last two games, with three goals and three assists, and the goaltending trio of Geneviève Lacasse, Delayne Brian, and rookie Emerance Maschmeyer have been rock solid through 10 games.

With Charline Labonté at the other end of the ice, who only has a single loss and seven goals against on the season to date, this weekend will likely prove to be a challenge to the league’s best offensive producers in a star-fueled matchup on hallowed ground.

The Heritage Classic begins at 1:30 EST at the Bell Centre in Montreal, and tickets are still available here. Sunday’s game is scheduled for the same time at Centre Étienne-Desmarteau, and tickets for the second game can be purchased here.