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CWHL Weekend Preview: Les Canadiennes head to Calgary with first place on the line

Montreal needs to sweep both games in regulation to finish first.

Shanna Martin / Eyes on the Prize

Les Canadiennes’ final two games of the regular season will certainly have the feel of a playoff series.

Montreal is four points behind Calgary and can pull even with a pair of regulation wins. That would give Montreal the advantage in both head-to-head record and regulation wins, which would give them the edge.

The two teams have split their four games this season, but all four have been played in Montreal, albeit at four different arenas. The first matchup between the two was a 1-0 Montreal win at the Bell Centre. Calgary followed that up the next day with a 5-3 win, in a game where Caroline Ouellette became the first player in CWHL history to reach 300 points.

A month later, the two teams met again. Calgary took the first game 5-4 in overtime in a game that Montreal had leads of 3-1 and 4-2. The next day, Montreal came back with a 4-1 win led by a three point game from Ann-Sophie Bettez and Marie-Philip Poulin.

Notably, Charline Labonté was injured for those two games, as Catherine Herron got the start for Montreal in both games.

Calgary has no shortage of talent when it comes to their team. They have three outstanding goaltenders in Emerance Maschmeyer, Geneviève Lacasse, and Delayne Brian. While Brian is the lesser known of the three, she shut down Montreal in last year’s Clarkson Cup final.

Maschmeyer (4-3) has all three Calgary losses this season, but don’t let that fool you. She has the best save percentage among CWHL goaltenders (.939) and a 1.70 goals against average. Lacasse (7-0) leads the team with a 1.62 GAA (.931 save percentage) while Brian is 8-0 with a 1.84 GAA and .917 save percentage. All goaltenders have a shutout each.

In front of their goaltenders, Calgary also has a ton of talent. Meaghan Mikkelson is one of the best defenders in Canada and she’s joined by National team members Brigette Lacquette and Katelyn Gosling.

At forward, all of Calgary’s top nine has senior national team experience with their country, which is just remarkable. Brianne Jenner (18gp-9g-18a-27p) and Rebecca Johnston (18-7-14-21) are among the best players in the world and Bailey Bram (20-12-10-22) is having her best season in the CWHL.

That doesn’t even factor in All-Star game first star Jill Saulnier (18-10-7-17) and three-time Olympian and CWHL rookie Iya Gavrilova (18-11-9-20).

On their end, Montreal has talent as well, even if they don’t match up with Calgary’s name recognition.

Charline Labonté is once again in the running for top goaltender in the CWHL. She has a 11-3-0 record with a 1.49 GAA (top in the league) and .936 save percentage. She also leads the league with five shutouts. She has won the CWHL’s top goaltender award two straight seasons.

Up front, Montreal is led by their top line of Caroline Ouellette, Marie-Philip Poulin, and Ann-Sophie Bettez. Poulin and Bettez are the top two scorers in the league.

Ouellette is tied with Jayna Hefford for the top goal scorer in CWHL history with 130 goals and her next goal will break the record. However, with her team in the Quebec International Pee-Wee tournament, it is not confirmed whether she made the trip to Calgary.

The game on Saturday is streamed on CWHL Live and will get underway at 8:15 p.m. ET from Calgary. It can be seen on YouTube here. We’ll also embed the stream below.

The second game in the weekend series will be Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Both games will be held at the WinSport Arena A in Calgary.

Saturday’s game is Calgary’s annual Do it For Daron game, where they are raising awareness for youth mental health.