The Clarkson Cup is over – but how sweet it was. On a day when many expected the Montreal Stars to battle the Boston Blades in the final, Toronto showed up with a fire in their belly. Held scoreless for three nerve-wracking periods, the Furies finally put a puck past Boston Blade’s netminder Brittany Ott to clinch their first-ever Clarkson Cup win.
It wasn’t so much the Furies forwards who shone on this particular afternoon, but Toronto’s Christina Kessler and her talented defence. It was Britni Smith who scored the OT winner. Smith, as skilled a defenceman as any, has often flown under the radar. Though recognized by her own team and given the captaincy, she was not invited to participate in Canada’s Olympic training camp pre-Sochi. Come and watch any Furies game however, and you will see evidence of Smith’s particular talents on the ice. Rarely will you see her in the penalty box, though it is usually her job to stop the best of the fleet-footed snipers on the opposing team. How does Smith accomplish this? She matches their speed and follows their moves and waits for them to give up the puck – and when they do, Smith gets her stick or skate on the puck and clears it before it ever gets near her net. Anyone who has ever played defence can attest to how difficult this is. Smith makes it all look easy.
Then there was Martine Garland and Shannon Moulson. Both played a great game – smart with the puck, refusing to panic, patrolling the blue line with size and presence. Both these defencemen have played strongly all year and on Saturday afternoon they were a big part of the reason the Furies won the game. They got the Furies inside the Blade’s blue-line and refused them passage through the middle ice.
Two other defencemen stood out as well - Tessa Bonhomme and Michelle Bonello. Bonello for her breakneck speed in retrieving those pucks that went dangerously near the Furies net before the Blades could grab them. Bonello showed flashes of brilliance in reading the play and spinning and turning and passing the puck back up ice. Bonhomme, for her part, continued to do what she does every game. Steal pucks from some of the top offensive players in the league while patrolling the boards, pass tape to tape to her open forwards, jump into the rush at the opponent’s net, keep those pucks in at the blueline at all costs and control the power-plays.
There’s one other player who doesn’t always get the praise she deserves and that’s Lexie Hoffmeyer. Hoffmeyer was that solid presence on the ice that squared off against players from the Calgary Inferno, the Montreal Stars and the Boston Blades. Taking on everyone bigger and larger than herself, Hoffmeyer emerged with the puck and used her grittiness to keep the Furies in the game. She had a big hockey heart on the ice and her passion for playing the game no doubt inspired her teammates to keep digging in.
Last, but certainly not least, was Kessler. What a game she had! Boston had at least 3 sure goals that even the crowd was certain would find the back of the net. Kessler’s reflexes were astonishingly quick and her presence in the net focussed and confident. She did not waver all game and carried the Furies to their first Stanley Cup victory.
This Clarkson cup final goes to Kessler and the Furies defence. They denied the Blades a chance to ignite their lethal offensive play and held Hillary Knight, Stack, Bellamy and the rest scoreless.