In its first weekend back from the Four Nations break, the CWHL featured a Boston-Brampton matchup, as well as a contest between the league's best teams, Les Canadiennes and Calgary.
The Inferno split with Les Canadiennes, while the Thunder swept the Blades.
Calgary Inferno vs. Les Canadiennes
The matchup between Calgary and Les Canadiennes featured the only undefeated teams in the league. Heading into the season, Calgary was the CWHL's best team -- on paper. But Les Canadiennes boasted one of the best, if not the best, lines in the league.
“I think obviously on paper means nothing if you don’t put it on the ice," Calgary coach Scott Reid said. "We just have to focus every day on trying to get better as a group.
"The old slogan is, hard work beats talent unless talent works hard."
The weekend series ended in a split. Calgary took the first game 5-4, and Les Canadiennes won 5-0 the next night.
Jessica Campbell had a team-high four points in the win, while Delayne Brian made 35 saves. Charline Labonte stopped 18 for Les Canadiennes.
“Our depth helps us; we have some pretty good offensive threats throughout four lines, so that definitely helps us out," Reid said. "We still [have] to get a little stronger in our defense zone and our team play, but other than that we’re just moving forward and trying to get better every day.”
On Sunday, Les Canadiennes blanked Calgary 5-0. Marie-Philip Poulin had a hat trick, finishing the weekend with seven points. Labonte made 23 saves in the win.
"[Les Canadiennes' top line has] proven themselves over and over as the top players in the world, so you have to be aware of them," Reid said.
"One thing we could take away is definitely winning one on one battles, wanting those 50-50 pucks. They did that all weekend and sometimes we did, sometimes we didn’t, but they did it consistently.”
Brampton Thunder vs. Boston Blades
The Blades and Thunder faced off in their first series of the year. Brampton swept Boston, which leaves the Blades winless this season.
"I’d say it’s a little frustrating but I think it’s a very positive group of individuals and they see themselves making improvements and they see themselves getting better even though they’re not getting the results," Blades head coach Brian McCloskey said.
Brampton won the first game 2-1. Elizabeth Tremblay scored first, but Candice Styles and Jess Jones responded in the last period for Brampton. Erica Howe made 14 saves in the win, while Genevieve Lacasse stopped 51 shots.
The next night, the Thunder scored first. Tara Watchorn tied the game for Boston, but Brampton permanently took the lead less than two minutes later. Liz Knox made 29 saves for Brampton, while Lacasse had 43.
“We keep getting better in some of the small areas of the game. Our D-zone coverage has improved [and] we’re not turning the puck over as much in our end as we were previously," McCloskey said.
"We’re doing some good things. We’ve gotten a lot better. We're a little outmanned in terms of depth, so it’s just a case of whether we can generate a little bit more offense without giving up more than we are defensively."
Boston Blades Notes
Coach's notables: Maggie DiMasi, Dru Burns, Kristina Brown, Tara Watchorn
Injury Update: Sadie St. Germain did not play last weekend. McCloskey said she needs an MRI on her knee and he probably won't know her status until the middle of the week.
Three Up, Three Down
↑ Genevieve Lacasse: Lacasse made 94 saves on the weekend. Her 369 saves are more than double Christina Kessler's, who's second in the league in saves.
"I’ve been really impressed by the team’s outlook, including Genevieve Lacasse, who obviously could be very frustrated because we’re not giving her the offense support we’d like to in terms of putting some goals up so she’s got a little breathing room," McCloskey said. "She’s got to stop everything."
↑ Marie-Philip Poulin: Poulin is part of Montreal's top line, and had seven points last weekend, including a hat trick. She leads the league with 11 points and hasn't been held scoreless yet.
↑ Calgary's depth: The Inferno have the ability to roll four scoring lines.
"Our depth helps us definitely, we have some pretty good offensive threats throughout four lines so that definitely helps us out," Reid said.
↓ Boston's offense: The Blades don't score much, and only netted more than one goal once this season. McCloskey said the team needs to fare better on the power play, something they struggled with last weekend.
"It’s just a case of whether we can generate a little bit more offense without giving up more than we are defensively," McCloskey said.
↓ Parity: It's early in the season, but so far Calgary and Les Canadiennes are the top two teams in the league. The Thunder, Furies, and Blades have all struggled against the top two teams this year.
↓ Boston's blueline: McCloskey, who already had a thin defense in Boston, said he had to move Clara St. Germain to forward to try and play four lines. McCloskey said he relied on four defenders for much of the weekend.
(Photo credit: Joseph [email protected])