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Canadiennes vs. Inferno preview: No shortage of storylines

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The last weekend of the season will be interesting and is also hugely important

Dave Holland / CWHL

You definitely won’t want to miss this weekend’s series between the Calgary Inferno and Les Canadiennes.

Even if it wasn’t Hilary Knight’s debut for Montreal on Sunday. Even if the teams weren’t battling for home-ice advantage in the playoffs. Even if it wasn’t the return of Olympians. Even if it wasn’t a Clarkson Cup rematch.

That’s because Saturday’s game is a special event for all of those involved with the Canadiennes organization.

It is their annual Pink in the Rink game to raise funds for the Cedars Breast Clinic at the McGill University Health Centre. The event was started when Annie Guay, Caroline Ouellette and Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux approached the organization that they wanted to do something for the community.

“Eight years ago they came to [general manager Meg Hewings] and I and said they want to do something for breast cancer. We want to dedicate a game to them because this is important to us,” said Fiona Robinson, who is now in charge of community engagement. At the time the players were still paying to play and they were thinking about others.

Three current members of the team joined Dr. Sarkis Meterissian, the director of the Breast Clinic and other members of the Canadiennes organization and people involved with the clinic on a tour. There would have been more players if it weren’t for a bug going through the locker room.

“We have limited resources from the government,” said Dr. Meterissian. “We rely on fundraisers from groups like the Canadiennes to allow us to get things whether it is instruments or services for our patients that we don’t have access to.”

The funding from these initiatives don’t go towards big machines or equipment. It is for services like dieticians, nutritionists, and trainers to work with and consult the patients as well as things for comfort, sometimes it is as simple as a pillow.

“All that costs money,” he said. “We need simple things that will help them eat better and feel better.”

They were able to see machines like the Cyber Knife, a machine that costs $3 million and can give more precise radiation therapy by targeting tumours that would otherwise not be targeted as well. There are four such machines in Canada, and two of them are in Montreal.

“A lot of the girls on our team said last year they came and it was a great experience and that we needed to go,” said Erinn Noseworthy. “It was amazing to see what goes on. Not so much breast cancer but I’ve had a lot of cancer related illness in my family so to see what they go through is truly amazing to see the support they get.”

The team usually plays the first period in pink and purple jerseys to represent the causes they support. Those jerseys are auctioned off in a silent auction as well as other goods that are given to the Canadiennes to raise money. Some items will be posted online so if you’re not able to attend the game, you can still get involved.

“It’s always good to give back,” said Canadiennes goaltender Marie-Soleil Deschênes

“What’s nice is that it’s women helping women with breast cancer,” Meterissian said.

Playoff implications

This weekend is likely a playoff preview as these teams are likely finishing second and third in the CWHL unless a surprise between Vanke and Kunlun happens.

But home-ice advantage in the best-of-three semi-final is very much up for grabs. After getting swept by the Markham Thunder last weekend, the task is tougher for the Inferno. They will have to win both games in order to finish ahead of Montreal.

CWHL Standings

TEAM GP W L OTL PTS GF GA
TEAM GP W L OTL PTS GF GA
KUNLUN 26 20 5 1 41 88 46
MONTREAL 26 20 5 1 41 110 57
CALGARY 26 17 5 4 38 94 63
MARKHAM 26 12 7 7 31 70 67
VANKE 26 13 12 1 27 72 89
TORONTO 28 9 17 2 20 56 99
BOSTON 26 1 22 3 5 40 109

CWHL season is 28 games. Top four teams make the playoffs. Final weekend matchups: Calgary @ Montreal, Markham @ Boston, Kunlun vs Vanke (in Boston). Kunlun will “host” their matchup at a neutral location, likely in the Toronto area.

Home-ice is even more crucial because teams do not travel in the playoffs. The lower-ranked team is made the home team for the second game of the series for purposes of last change but it is played in the same rink as games one and three (if necessary).

Montreal won both meetings between the two teams in Calgary, but the teams are quite different than they were.

The return of the Olympians

The big story heading into last weekend was Calgary announcing that Brianne Jenner and Blayre Turnbull were returning to the team. It didn't have the desired effect, however. They lost both games and Calgary was held to two goals combined in the two losses. Only Jenner managed a lone assist.

They will be honoured by the Canadiennes prior to Saturday's game along with the Canadiennes Olympians.

The big story into this weekend will be Hilary Knight's debut on Sunday. The 28-year-old Gold Medal-winning forward will return to the CWHL with the Canadiennes just in time for their playoff push. She would have only had one practice with her new teammates before playing on Sunday.

Not to mention that this will be the first time that former Inferno goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer will play against her former team in her new home arena.

Both games this weekend will be held at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard. Saturday's Pink in the Rink game is at 5:30 p.m. EST while Sunday's game will be at 3:30 p.m. EDT. Tickets are available for 15$ here or at the door. Fans should arrive at both games early as seating is limited.

Saturday’s game will be streamed for free here. Sunday’s game will be broadcast nationwide on Sportsnet.