When the buzzer sounded at the end of Team Poulin’s 5-1 win over Team Jenner on Sunday afternoon, there were no sticks or gloves thrown in the air. There was no mob at the crease of goaltender Geneviève Lacasse. There may have been some players who didn’t even realize they had won the first PWHPA showcase event.
The Toronto showcase event at Westwood Arena was not meant to be a true tournament in order to avoid the two Toronto-area teams facing each other. But in the end, the Team Poulin and Team Jenner game was between the two winners of the first day. And for fans of the now-defunct CWHL, it was familiar. It was the same, but different.
There were no cities associated with any of the teams — Team Knox and Team Johnston were the others. But a quick glance of the rosters told you everything you needed to know. Team Poulin was Montreal, Team Jenner was Markham. Team Knox was Toronto, and Team Johnston was Calgary. There were a few changes, but the cores were the same.
When Team Poulin huddled around the crease before the game, their familiar chant was changed from ‘Canadiennes’ to ‘Montreal’.
For the last four years of the league, either Montreal’s or Markham’s season ended against one another in the playoffs. For three of the last four years, Montreal’s season ended against a team that included Brianne Jenner. Sunday’s game included both.
There was no grueling regular season leading up to this final. There was no M or C on the jerseys, instead each one had the logo of the organization sitting out from any professional league in North America in order to get a sustainable, viable league. The only green and bleu-blanc-rouge jerseys in the arena were in the stands. But there was no mistaking the two teams on the ice.
It was the same, but different.
Team Jenner defeated Team Johnston, while Team Poulin beat Team Knox. While the words exhibition and showcase were used interchangeably, make no mistake. Every player who stepped on the ice over the weekend wanted to win.
“Every game that we have the opportunity and privilege of playing this year, we need to make it special, and we need to give it our all,” said Montreal forward Laura Stacey.
On Sunday, it didn’t take long for Montreal to get on the board. Mélodie Daoust opened the scoring with her first of two goals 4:38 into the first period collecting a pass and firing it past Jenner goaltender Amelia Boughn.
Stacey spent all of her CWHL career with most of the players on Team Jenner. She was playing her first weekend with the Montreal team. Markham (and before that Brampton) and Montreal games have been noted for their rivalry and physical play.
“There’s always going to be a rivalry there, both teams always go really hard against each other,” Stacey said. “I’m really good friends with players on both teams. At the end of the day, you’re there to do a job. I got a few jabs here and there, and it made me laugh a little.”
Stacey also had two goals in the win playing on a line with Hilary Knight and Emily Clark, including the goal to make it 2-0 on the power play. It ended up being the winning goal.
“They were saying ‘how could you do this to us,’” Stacey said about her old teammates, laughing.
The line of Clark, Knight, and Stacey was thrown together for the weekend, but Stacey hopes she will develop chemistry with the American star. Stacey had previously played with Clark at the national team level.
The PWHPA expects to play at least seven showcases, three of which have been announced, plus exhibition games. The other announced dates are in New Hampshire and Chicago. Montreal is expected to get a showcase event later in the season.
The Toronto showcase, and the championship, doesn’t end the season. Instead of a whole summer before the next games, the next showcase is October 4-5 in Hudson, New Hampshire. Montreal will be there under the Team Knight banner.
The other teams will be littered with American Olympians and players who played for New England area teams, and others in both the CWHL and NWHL. The captains are Kali Flanagan, Lee Stecklein, and Jocelyn and Monique Lamoureux along with Knight. Full rosters and information are available here.
The Toronto showcase games are available in full here.