Charline Labonte and the Montreal Stars have prided themselves on strong play in their end, and after two games at the Clarkson Cup, who’s to disagree.
Labonte notched her second straight shutout one day after winning the CWHL Goaltender of the Year award.
Montreal beat the Calgary Inferno 2-0 in Game Two of their best of three semi-final on the back of goals from Emmanuelle Blais and Marieve Provost and will now face the Boston Blades in the one game, winner-take-all championship final. They beat Calgary 4-0 in Game One on Wednesday afternoon.
Labonte made the save of the tournament – and maybe the year – when a rebound she kicked out went right on the stick of Louise Warren. Warren’s shot was headed towards an open net, but Labonte stuck out her glove and made the save, shocking everyone including the Sportsnet announcers who sat in stunned silence for a few seconds.
“She was amazing and she [made] a crazy save at the end of the second period, and it just was a turning point. We scored a goal right after it. So it was the magic save. I never saw something like this before.”
– Marieve Provost to Zoe Hayden of Stanley Cup of Chowder after the game. (Read other post-game quotes from the Stars and great Clarkson Cup coverage there as well)
It was one of the few times she was really tested. Calgary did have 32 shots, but not many real scoring chances. However, when they had chances behind the strong Montreal defence, Labonte didn’t allow anything to beat her.
To make matters worse, Provost’s goal to put the Stars up 2-0 was shortly after Labonte’s big save with less than two minutes to go in the second period.
Montreal seemed to take a 2-0 lead earlier in the period, but the referee waved the goal off because she intended to blow play dead prior to the puck being pushed in by Julie Chu on a Montreal power play.
The Stars now will face the Boston Blades in Saturday’s championship game at 2:00 p.m. on the main Sportsnet network. The Stars have yet to beat the Blades on the ice in four games this season. Two games were forfeited and ruled Montreal wins earlier in the season.
Boston was the top team in the league this season and are led by US Olympic Team members Brianna Decker and Hilary Knight. Decker and Knight both recorded a hat trick in a game during this Clarkson Cup. Boston swept Toronto 3-0 on three Decker goals and Knight had three in Boston’s clinching 7-3 win.
Boston most recently swept Montreal in two games this past weekend even without Knight and fellow Team USA member Monique Lamoureux.
“At the end of the day, the one game we will have to beat them is the final (if we both win the semi-final),” said Ann-Sophie Bettez before the Clarkson Cup. “So if I had to pick one game to win, it would be that one.”
“[Boston] has such a good team,” said Labonte – also before the Cup began. “I don’t think it would be possible to beat them in every game but I do believe we can beat them and if that one time is in the final, then so be it.”