by Justin Cuthbert
MARKHAM, Ont – Kelley Steadman and Jen Schoullis combined for five goals Saturday, as the Boston Blades defeated the defending champions the Montreal Stars 5-2 to capture the franchise’s first-ever Clarkson Cup title.
The difference in the fifth installment of the Clarkson Cup championship game was special teams. The Blades scored all five goals with the man advantage and defended seven Stars power plays, including a late 5-on-3 when Boston was clinging to a one-goal lead.
Steadman and Schoullis became the first two women in Clarkson Cup final history to record a multi-goal game.
Their efforts helped prevent the Stars from capturing their third consecutive Canadian Women’s Hockey League championship and fourth in the tournament’s brief history.
Schoullis opened the scoring midway through the first period as she deflected a point shot through the legs of Stars goaltender Charline Labonté. It was the first time Labonté allowed a goal in the four-day tournament.
After another Schoullis goal, Montreal fought back to tie the game. Meghan Agosta-Marciano, who received the Angela James Bowl for the second consecutive season as the CWHL’s top scorer, notched her first of the tournament at 3:47 of the second period. Dominique Thibault tied the game just moments later.
However, Steadman halted the Montreal comeback attempt as she scored three consecutive goals to finish the game. The natural hat trick marked the first three-goal game of her career.
It couldn’t have come at a better time.
“It was definitely the biggest game of my career with Boston. It was great to make history with my team. We did a great job tonight,” Steadman said.
“I was just happy to pop a couple to help get the win.”
Kacey Bellamy chipped in with three assists as she anchored Boston’s lethal power play.
With Labonte’s superb play in the tournament, Blades head coach Digit Murphy challenged her team to put as many pucks towards goal as possible in order to solve the Stars goaltender.
The CWHL’s Most Valuable Player, Hilary Knight, leads the Blades number one power play unit that has been tremendous all season. However, it struggled to generate offence Saturday afternoon, while the second unit thrived.
Murphy decided to stick with the hot hand, with the support of her bench.
“It really fuels the team when another line does well. The team is very selfless. They said, ‘Go with those guys, they are doing it!,’ and that’s a tribute to them. They are special kids. They are not selfish. They just want to win the hockey game,” Murphy said.
Murphy confirmed after the game that their first championship win was sweeter because it came against their rivals from Montreal.
“If you don’t play the top team, it doesn’t feel like as big of an accomplishment. They have players like Ouellette, Labonté, Ward, Vaillancourt and Agosta. You can go on and on,” Murphy said.
"When you beat them, you know you deserved to win the cup.”
Murphy hopes that Boston’s first title will provide a platform to inspire the next generation of female hockey fan and player south of the border.
And what better role models than the 2013 Clarkson Cup Champions, the Boston Blades.