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Hockey Calgary Inferno and Les Canadiennes de Montreal clash for Clarkson Cup

Brianne Jenner has experienced both beating and losing to Les Canadiennes de Montreal in the Clarkson Cup.

So the Calgary Inferno forward would rather lift the governor general’s chalice on Sunday in Toronto than watch the bleu-blanc-rouge do it again.

“Winning the Clarkson Cup in 2016 is one of my greatest hockey moments and memories and losing didn’t feel great the next year to be honest,” Jenner said.

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“To me, it means just as much as a world championship or any championship that you’re fighting for at that level of competition. It certainly means a lot to me and my Inferno teammates.”

Calgary and Montreal clash for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) title for the third time in four years.

The game, to be broadcast on Sportsnet, NHL Network and French-language TVA, will be played at the 7,800-seat Coca-Cola Coliseum.

In 11 years of the Clarkson Cup, named after and donated by former governor general Adrienne Clarkson, Montreal has been a perennial contender as first the Stars and then Les Canadiennes.

The hockey club makes its eighth final appearance Sunday.

Regular-season champion Calgary (23-4-0-1) won four out of six games against Les Canadiennes in 2018-19. Montreal posted a 21-6-0-1 record.

“Obviously we’re prepared for Montreal and what they’re going to throw at us,” Jenner said. “We’ve got to be aware of some of their players who are about talented as you get in our game.”

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The Inferno benefited from both the return of five national-team players, who were absent in 2017-18 to prepare for the Winter Olympics, as well as an influx of big-name players from the United States.

American forward Brianna Decker, defender Kacey Bellamy and goaltender Alex Rigsby, whose U.S. squad beat Canada in a shootout for Olympic gold, bolstered the Inferno ranks.

But Les Canadiennes also gained an American star this season. Forward Hilary Knight was voted the the best female player this week in a poll of NHL players conducted by their players’ association.

Knight’s Les Canadiennes linemate Marie-Philip Poulin ranked second in that poll.

With 23 goals and 27 assists in 26 games, Poulin earned the Angela James Bowl as the CWHL’s top scorer this season.

But Poulin’s status for Sunday is unclear. The captain of the Canadian women’s team suffered an injury in the regular-season finale.

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She did not play in a semi-final series against the 2018 Clarkson Cup champion Markham Thunder.

Poulin travelled with Les Canadiennes to Toronto on Friday. A team spokesperson said she’s “day-to-day with a lower-body injury and is working hard to come back.”

Another Poulin linemate, Melodie Daoust, was a CWHL rookie this season now playing in her first Clarkson Cup.

“You know it’s a one-game, win-all and the nerves are going to jump in at the beginning in the warm-up,” Daoust said. “I want it so bad. I’ve seen the Cup and I just want to lift it in the air with this group of girls.”

Both teams underwent mid-season coaching changes. Former Canadian Olympic team coach Shannon Miller resigned as Inferno head coach just a few weeks into the job for undisclosed reasons.

Ryan Hilderman stepped into the breach in Calgary. When Dany Brunet stepped down in Montreal in November, four-time Olympian Caroline Ouellette took over behind the bench.

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Women’s hockey avoided its usual post-Olympic lull this season.

February’s three-game series between Canada and the United States in London, Ont., Toronto and Detroit, plus the CWHL all-star game Jan. 20 at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena helped keep the female game on the radar.

But American forward Kendall Coyne Schofield’s electrifying lap in the NHL all-star skills speed drill Jan. 24 was a pioneering moment for the game.

“Even if it gets the conversation going more on social media and opens people’s eyes up to the level of the top female players – obviously they’re slightly different games with the men’s side and the women’s side – but if you’re a fan of NHL hockey I promise there’s something the CWHL can offer you,” Jenner stated.

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