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PWHPA Dream Gap Tour: Canada’s best women’s hockey players return to competition

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The PWHPA’s Secret Dream Gap Tour gets underway in Calgary, and Montreal is a contender.

Shanna Martin

The Montreal chapter of the PWHPA, known as Team Bauer, will play Toronto (Team Sonnet) as the Canadian leg of the Secret Dream Gap Tour kicks off on Monday evening.

All games will be streamed on Sportsnet Now, with the final three games being shown on Sportsnet. They will be played at the Saddledome in Calgary.

For many of these players, it will be their first competitive game since January 12, when the PWHPA had their last showcase in Toronto. The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the 2020 World Championships and postponed the 2021 edition until the summer. All three teams also struggled to get practice time due to provincial health protocols.

In Montreal, the team trains out of the Centre 21.02, a new women’s hockey centre of excellence at the Verdun Auditorium. They were able to get a special exemption to practice under restrictions because of their status with high-level athletes representing Hockey Canada.

Scoring System

The Dream Gap Tour has a modified scoring system. It is a two-game round robin where each team (Montreal, Toronto, Calgary) will play each other twice. Then the top two teams in the points system will play in the championship.

GAME RESULT:
REGULATION WIN 2 points
OT WIN 1.5
SHOOTOUT WIN 1 point
OT/SHOOTOUT LOSS 0.5 points
REGULATION LOSS 0 points

BONUS POINTS (added to team total):
PLAYER HAT TRICK = 1 point
GOALIE SHUTOUT = 1 point
SHORTHANDED GOAL = 1 point
TEAM SCORES 5+ GOALS IN GAME = 1 point

This can have some implications in late-game management even when the score is beyond one goal. Will teams be more aggressive on the penalty kill? Will teams still pull the goalie for a late six-on-four advantage where a shorthanded goal gives up another point? It was successful in the US leg as well, where there were only two teams facing off.

Schedule

MONDAY MAY 24, 5:00pm EDT — MTL vs TOR (Sportsnet Now)
TUESDAY MAY 25, 5:00pm EDT — MTL vs CGY (Sportsnet Now)
WEDNESDAY MAY 26, 5:00pm EDT — TOR vs CGY (Sportsnet Now)
THURSDAY MAY 27, 5:00pm EDT — MTL vs TOR (Sportsnet Now)
FRIDAY MAY 28, 3:30pm EDT — MTL vs CGY (Sportsnet + SN Now)
SATURDAY MAY 29, 1:00pm EDT — TOR vs CGY (Sportsnet + SN Now)
SUNDAY MAY 30, 4:30pm EDT — CHAMPIONSHIP (Sportsnet + SN Now)

All games will be streamed on Sportsnet.ca as well.

Rosters

Montreal is led by nine of the 28 players named to Canada’s 28-player Olympic centralization roster which will be cut to 23 for the Olympics in 2022. Olympic veterans Marie-Philip Poulin, Jill Saulnier, Laura Stacey, and Emily Clark lead the way up front, with Erin Ambrose, Jaime Bourbonnais on defence, plus Ann-Renée Desbiens and Emerance Maschmeyer in goal.

That doesn’t even take into account players who did not make the Canadian roster in two-time Olympians Geneviève Lacasse, and Lauriane Rougeau, plus National team members Jessie Eldridge, Rebecca Leslie, and Ann-Sophie Bettez.

One notable absence is Mélodie Daoust, who will miss the Dream Gap Tour with an injury, but she will be with Canada for centralization. Although they appear short on defence, both Karell Emard and Samantha Isbell have played defence in the NCAA or at the CWHL level.

Toronto has a ton of talent as well, led by their group of forwards that includes Olympic camp-bound Victoria Bach, Brianne Jenner, Sarah Nurse, Jamie Lee Rattray, and Natalie Spooner. Loren Gabel is also one of the more talented offensive players in the entire showcase.

On defence, they are solid with a Renata Fast and Jocelyne Larocque. Newcomers Ella Shelton and Claire Thompson were named to Canada’s centralization roster and Laura Fortino is always one to watch as well.

Toronto also has nine players named to Canada’s Olympic camp roster.

Calgary’s roster isn’t as strong as the one that won the final Clarkson Cup, but they still have a lot of talent up and down the roster. Rebecca Johnston and Blayre Turnbull remain two of the best forwards in Canada. Hanna Bunton, Alexandra Poznikoff, Kaitlin Willoughby, Sarah Potomak, and Iya Gavrilova provide solid forward depth.

On defence, Meaghan Mikkelson and Brigette Lacquette lead the way, and they have solid goaltending with Kristen Campbell, who will be one of the three goaltenders on Canada’s centralization roster, joining Maschmeyer and Desbiens, plus Kassidy Sauvé, who had a tremendous NCAA career.