The last two defending Clarkson Cup champions will be facing off in Montreal for a best-of-three CWHL semi-final to get back to the championship game.
It is the third straight semi-final battle between these two teams. Montreal swept the Thunder two years ago, while Markham returned the favour last year en route to their first Clarkson Cup.
This year’s action gets underway Friday night at the Place Bell community rink in Laval before shifting to Brossard’s Complexe Bell for game two, and game three if one is required.
Game One: Friday, March 8 7:30 p.m. (Place Bell community rink - Laval)
Game Two: Saturday, March 9 6:00 p.m. (Complexe Bell Brossard)
Game Three*: Sunday, March 10 1:30 p.m. (Complexe Bell Brossard) [*if necessary]
Although all three games will be played in Montreal, Markham will be the home team and have last change in game two.
Season series at a glance
Oct 20 - MARKHAM 1 @ MONTREAL 5
Oct 21 - MARKHAM 1 @ MONTREAL 7
Jan 26 - MONTREAL 1 @ MARKHAM 2
Jan 27 - MONTREAL 6 @ MARKHAM 2
Feb 23 - MARKHAM 1 @ MONTREAL 2
Feb 24 - MARKHAM 3 @ MONTREAL 2
The two teams split the final four games of the season series which indicates we may go the distance this weekend.
O Captain, My Captain
After missing the final three games of the regular season, the Markham Thunder confirmed that Jocelyne Larocque will return to the lineup. After leaving Montreal’s regular season finale on February 24, Les Canadiennes expected Marie-Philip Poulin back in the lineup but the team has not confirmed she will return.
Both players play significant roles for their teams and, obviously, Montreal potentially entering the series without the league’s leading scorer and leading MVP candidate is a huge factor.
What to watch for: Markham
In their last series against Montreal, Markham coach Jim Jackson combined his top three players - Laura Stacey, Jamie Lee Rattray, and Victoria Bach. Bach had a great rookie season, and paired with two experienced scorers provides Markham with a great trio. It also could open up opportunities for the line of Jenna McParland, Nicole Kosta, and Jess Jones.
Of course, McParland ended Montreal’s season a year ago when her hat trick eliminated Montreal in the second game of the series.
Markham has one of the deepest defensive corps in the league featuring Larocque, Laura Fortino, and Megan Bozek. They will be key to shut down Montreal’s top six which is formidable whether it includes Poulin or not.
Erica Howe doesn’t have the name recognition or international experience like other goaltenders in the league, but she has been one of the best CWHL goaltenders since entering the league. She is always solid, and you can expect Jackson to lean on her in this series.
What to watch for: Montreal
Of course the elephant in the room is the status of Marie-Philip Poulin. Losing the best player in the world would be a significant factor. However, if any team was equipped to withstand such a big loss, it’s Montreal. Even without Poulin, Montreal’s offence features four top international forwards - Hilary Knight, Mélodie Daoust, Jill Saulnier, and Ann-Sophie Bettez. Sarah Lefort and Katia Clement-Heydra provide great depth to the team as well.
On defence, expect Montreal to lean on their defensive trio of Erin Ambrose, Lauriane Rougeau, and Catherine Daoust. The trio play every situation and will be leaned on by Les Canadiennes coaching staff.
Montreal has two of Canada’s three goalies at the upcoming World Championships in Emerance Maschmeyer and Geneviève Lacasse. Maschmeyer has been the better of the two this season, but the potential of three games in three days does mean you need to consider managing your goaltenders.
By the Numbers
Les Canadiennes player stats
Markham Thunder player stats
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