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CWHL Playoffs 2016: Head-to-Head - Sena Suzuki vs Karell Emard

With the CWHL Clarkson Cup playoffs starting this evening, we conclude our head-to-head matchups with a pair of rookie defenders

Brandon Taylor | Shanna Martin

Photo Credit: CWHL



AGE: 24


HEIGHT: 5 ft 6 in


STATS: 1 G 5 A 6 PTS 8 PIM

WHY SHE'S AWESOME: Sena Suzuki is an extremely important player in the CWHL for several reasons. One, she's played well in her rookie season (and played in the All-Star Game in January). Two, she represents a growing trend of International players, specifically from Japan, coming to Canada and the CWHL to improve and learn.

Suzuki became the fourth Japanese woman to be drafted into the CWHL this past August, which was huge for not just the league, but women's hockey. Japan's women's hockey program has been making some strides on the world stage the last few years.

"It's pretty amazing that they're willing to come over from Japan and it's a total cultural change for them," said Toronto Furies leading scorer Natalie Spooner. "I think they were a little in shock at first but they've just been embracing it all, and really kind of trying to get better."

Suzuki finished the regular season with the most points among Japanese players, and has shown tremendous growth from the start of the season until now.

"I think we feel over the season how much she has improved, just from getting in the gym with us and getting on the ice with us, skill sessions," said Spooner. "She's definitely taking it all in and trying to do her best, and she's improved so much and she's definitely a key defenseman for us."

Photo Credit: CWHL



AGE: 27


HEIGHT: 5 ft 6 in


STATS: 7 G 6 A 13 PTS 42 PIM

WHY SHE'S AWESOME: Karell Emard is also a rookie in the CWHL, drafted in the third round by Montreal in the 2015 draft, after only Angela James Bowl winner Marie-Philip Poulin and rookie of the year nominee Katia Clement-Heydra, which isn't bad company to keep.

Prior to joining les Canadiennes, Emard spent two seasons as an assistant coach at Colgate University in the NCAA. Before that, she played as a forward for the St. Lawrence Saints, where she helped take her team to the championship final in four of her five years as a player. Prior to playing south of the border, she played at Dawson College with current teammates Ann-Sophie Bettez and Emmanuelle Blais.

Emard made the transition from forward to defence at the beginning of the season and made it look easy, finishing ninth on the team in scoring, third among Montreal blue liners, and seventh among all defensemen in the league.

Her play in the offensive zone is similar to another Montreal blue-liner who wears 76, as you can definitely see some high-level shooting and puck skills. But don't get any ideas that she's trying to emulate P.K. Subban. Emard has been wearing 76 dating back to, at least, her days at Dawson.

She's someone who appreciates the fans, who have been coming in droves to see the CWHL's first place team play this season.

"They're in there with us and we can feel that, and we love it," Emard said. "So many people have been buying Canadiennes attire, whether its jerseys, or t-shirts, even toques, and they ask us to sign them. It's really nice. Women's hockey is getting to a point where people actually recognize the level that we're playing at."

WHO HAS THE EDGE: Karell Emard certainly has more offensive upside than Sena Suzuki, and can contribute well from the back end should her team need the firepower. She also has the advantage of coming into game one on a scoring streak, picking up four points in her final two games. Suzuki will have the more difficult job, being forced to defend against the league's most dynamic offence. Advantage Emard.