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CWHL Weekend preview: Canadiennes face off vs. surging Thunder

A road series against a Brampton team that has won four straight games

Shanna Martin/Eyes On The Prize

The 13-3-2 Canadiennes head to Brampton having already clinched a playoff spot, sitting six points back of the first place Calgary Inferno to face the Thunder (9-9-2).

Montreal, who was off last weekend, have two games in hand, which they will have made up by the end of the weekend.

The Thunder are in a battle for third place with the Toronto Furies, who take on the Boston Blades this weekend, likely making at least a series split against Montreal a necessity if they want to hold on to their position in the standings.

CWHL Standings

CALGARY 20 17 3 0 34 81 38
MONTREAL 20 14 4 2 30 82 41
BRAMPTON 22 10 10 2 22 65 59
TORONTO 22 9 10 3 21 51 54
BOSTON 20 2 17 1 5 26 113

For the first time this season, Jess Jones leads the league in scoring with 15 goals and 16 assists, after a five point performance against the Boston Blades last weekend. Jones has a two point advantage in the race for the scoring title on last year’s Angela James Bowl winner Marie-Philip Poulin, and Caroline Ouellette, who are tied for second with 29 points each. Ann-Sophie Bettez is hot on their heels with 28 points on the season.

The Thunder have struggled at home this season, with a 4-6 record, ahead of only the Boston Blades. Les Canadiennes on the other hand, boast a 6-2 road record, second only to the Inferno.

The key for Brampton this weekend will be to stay out of the box. The Thunder are notorious for their physical play, and are the most penalized team in the CWHL. Thatis something they can’t afford to do against Montreal, who have the best powerplay in the league, operating at 29.9% this season.

Playing a disciplined game will be important for the Canadiennes as well, as Brampton’s powerplay is nothing to sneeze at, at 22.2%, although Montreal has been known to score the occasional shorthanded goal, particularly when Poulin and Bettez are killing penalties.

The last time these two teams played each other, Brampton scored six goals. All of them were scored on the power play. Those two games went to overtime with each team winning one, ironically, both overtime winners were on the power play hammering home the importance of staying at even strength for both teams.

It remains to be seen who will get the start in goal for Montreal. Charline Labonté has not played in the last three Montreal games due to an injury the team is calling a short-term, upper body injury.

Catherine Herron has started in her place and has gone 2-0-1 in her last three starts, including two games against the first place Inferno.

With an extra week’s rest after the bye week, it’s possible she’ll be good to go this afternoon against the Thunder. Liz Knox and Erica Howe have split goaltending duties for Brampton this season, and will likely play a game each this weekend.

Knox has played 11 games this season, and Howe has played 10. The difference likely being the result of Howe spending time with the Canadian National Program and the Development program.

The game on Saturday will be streamed live on YouTube (you can see it below as well), and gets underway at 6:30 p.m. ET. Sunday’s game starts at 1:30 p.m. ET. If you are in the Brampton area, both games are at the Brampton Memorial Arena.