The Boston Blades got their power play going at the best possible time.
Kelley Steadman and Jen Schoullis had two power-play goals each as Boston downed the Montreal Stars 5-2 on Saturday to win their first-ever Clarkson Cup.
Montreal had been hoping for its third consecutive Canadian Women’s Hockey League championship.
“We talked about executing on the power play and we had our players watch video a bit,” said Blades’ head coach Digit Murphy. “When you see it on video it’s a lot different than when a coach tells you what has to be done.
“We talked about puck rotation a bit more because Montreal likes to pack it in when they kill penalties by playing four down low.”
Boston failed to score with the extra skater in nine opportunities against the Stars in a 1-0 loss on Friday in its final round-robin match of the Clarkson Cup tournament.
“I think we had great puck movement on our power play,” said Steadman. “We struggled with it a lot during the year.”
The Blades opened the scoring near the midway point of the first period when Schoullis scored the first of her two goals after tipping in a shot from the point by Kacey Bellamy.
Nursing a 1-0 advantage through the opening 20 minutes, Boston padded its lead in the second period when they capitalized on another power play.
Just eight seconds after the Stars’ Caroline Ouellette was called for tripping, Schoullis scored her second goal of the game by banging a loose rebound into the net.
Montreal got on the scoreboard 32 seconds later when Meghan Agosta-Marciano delivered a low wrist shot from the slot area that eluded Blades’ goalie Genevieve Lacasse.
Gathering momentum from that goal, the Stars battled back to tie the game just before the midway point of the period on a goal by Dominique Thibault.
But Boston’s power play again made the difference.
With the Stars’ Catherine Ward whistled off for roughing, Steadman scored to give the Blades a 3-2 lead at the second intermission.
Pressing for the equalizer, Montreal had several good scoring opportunities including two 5-on-3 power plays.
But the Blades’ penalty killing units combined with clutch net minding by Lacasse, thwarted the Stars.
“Our penalty killing was huge,” said Murphy. “I think we were one of the best penalty-killing teams in the league and we knew our limitations and we had great goaltending.
“Lacasse was amazing. If she didn’t come up big when we were down 5-on-3 they score.”
Boston’s goalie was quick to credit the work of her teammates in making her work a lot easier.
“My teammates blocked some huge shots and they let me see a lot of those pucks,” said Lacasse.
With the Stars trying to fend off a double minor infraction by Haley Irwin late in regulation time, the Blades scored their fourth power-play goal when Steadman found the back of the net.
Boston rounded out the scoring when Steadman fired the puck into an empty net with 56 seconds remaining when the Stars pulled goaltender Charline Labonte in favour of an extra attacker.
“To win the title was sweet,” said Murphy. “If you don’t play the top team or second top team you don’t feel like you’ve accomplished anything. To beat them (Montreal) you know you deserved to win the cup.”
Stars’ head coach Philippe Trahan acknowledged the Blades’ special teams was difference in the final outcome.
“They (Boston) had nine power play opportunities in Friday’s game (won by the Stars 1-0) and didn’t score,” said Trahan. “It turned out to be good practice for them.”
Trahan was quick to credit the work of Lacasse in being a difference maker in the game.
“She definitely made some big saves because we had a few good shots,” said Montreal’s coach. “The quality of players that we have we should have scored. But they have good players too and they did what they had to do and we didn’t.”
The Stars outshot the Blades 42-33.
Ward was named the Clarkson Cup Most Valuable Player.
Named to tournament all-star team were Lacasse in goal, Ward and Gigi Marvin of Boston on defence; Sarah Vaillancourt and Irwin of Montreal and Kate Buesser of Boston as the forwards.
Steadman was named the game’s first star while Ouellete and Lacasse were second and third respectively.