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2016 Clarkson Cup Preview: Les Canadiennes vs Calgary Inferno

It all comes down to this. The two best teams in the CWHL going head to head for all the marbles on Sunday

Shanna Martin

As soon as the CWHL Draft ended, people were already buzzing. Montreal and Calgary were the talk of the league even then and it would be up to them to prove it.

Just look at the players they drafted. Marie-Philip Poulin, Hayley Wickenheiser, Brianne Jenner, Jill Saulnier, Blayre Turnbull, Karell Emard, Katia Clement-Heydra, Elana Lovell, Leslie Oles, Brigette Lacquette.

That's just between these two teams. And that doesn't even look at the talent these teams already had. Rebecca Johnston, Caroline Ouellette, Lauriane Rougeau, I could go on and on.

Both teams lived up to their expectations and will fittingly battle it out for the Clarkson Cup.

The season series was just as close between the two teams. Montreal won the season series 4-2 and went 2-2 in Calgary. Those two wins were two of the three losses that the Inferno had on home ice this season.

The series doesn't tell the whole story. Only two of those games happened with last year's CWHL leading scorer Johnston in the lineup. And the teams split those games.

The thing about a one-game final is that anything can happen. To get a better idea of these two teams, let's look back at the season series.

November 14: Montreal 4 @ Calgary 5

This game was dominated by Montreal from the opening whistle. They outshot Calgary 13-2 in the first period, but the game was tied at one. Calgary bounced back in the second and scored four goals to open up a 5-3 lead. Montreal would push back in the third and had a penalty shot goal from Poulin with under three minutes to go but it was not enough.

November 15: Montreal 5 @ Calgary 0

Charline Labonté admitted the day before that she struggled and needed to regroup and she did. The team played well again, but this time it was also evident on the scoreboard.

Poulin had a hat trick and Labonté made 23 saves for the shutout.

January 30: Calgary 2 @ Montreal 5

A scoreless first period led to a Caroline Ouellette goal in the second period to open up a 1-0 lead. Noémie Marin made it 2-0 in the third which started an insane 2:56 span that saw four goals, three by Montreal, to start the third. Ouellette had two goals and an assist.

January 31: Calgary 1 @ Montreal 3

Poulin and Ouellette scored 21 seconds apart in the opening minute of the second period to open up a 2-0 lead and Poulin added another in the opening minute of the third. Montreal outshot Calgary 31-22 in the win.

February 13: Montreal 2 @ Calgary 4

Rebecca Johnston made her season debut and wasted no time, scoring twice in the first period. She added an assist in the second and this was a game where Calgary just outplayed Montreal, who was without Julie Chu and Jordanna Peroff. It was the first time Montreal had been outshot all season to this point.

February 14: Montreal 2 @ Calgary 1

Again, Montreal rebounded after a loss the previous day. After a scoreless first, Noémie Marin scored to give Montreal a 1-0 lead. Early in the third, Katia Clement-Heydra potted home a rebound to go up 2-0.

Calgary would fight back as Brianne Jenner scored with under six minutes remaining, but Labonté stopped everything the rest of the way. Calgary outshot Montreal 35-24 but Labonté made 34 saves.

These two teams are evenly matched, and even the games with high score differentials were close for most of the game. Montreal not having Chu and Peroff in the last two meetings and still coming away with a split is significant because of what they both mean to the team.

Both have won a Clarkson Cup before, and both change the dynamic of the team when they are not there.

In those last two games, Calgary held Poulin pointless. She was only held pointless four times all year, and never two games in a row. If they can do that again, it will go a long way towards them winning, but as Montreal showed in the final game, they can win even if Poulin is held in check, but expecting to do that three times in a row may be fool's gold.

The game is on Sunday and is live on Sportsnet's main network. It will be streamed on for those outside of Canada. The game will be played at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa and tickets can be purchased here for 20$.