MARKHAM, Canada – Britni Smith scored the game’s only goal 33 seconds into overtime to give the Toronto Furies a 1-0 win over the Boston Blades in the Clarkson Cup finals. It was Toronto’s first CWHL championship and came at the expense of last year’s champions who were led by 2014 Olympic silver medallist Hilary Knight.
The game marked the sixth season of Clarkson Cup competition and was played before a packed house at Centennial Arena just north of Toronto. Although Smith gets the heroine’s accolades for scoring the deciding goal, it was a battle between the two goalies which took centre stage. Toronto’s Christina Kessler, tournament MVP, and Boston’s Brittany Ott were perfect through 60 minutes of regulation, and the only goal Ott surrendered came off a rebound from in close.
Boston defeated Toronto 2-1 in the round robin but couldn’t beat Kessler on Saturday afternoon.
The Furies were led by Natalie Spooner, recently returned from Sochi with an Olympic gold medal, and Tessa Bonhomme, a late cut for the Olympic team. Spooner becomes the first player to win Olympic gold and Clarkson Cup honours in the same season. The Minnesota Whitecaps won the Clarkson Cup in 2010, but that team featured several Americans from the Vancouver Olympics who won silver, not gold.
The Blades had plenty of firepower and experience. In addition to Knight, the team had several USA Hockey veterans including Kelli Stack, Kacey Bellamy, Jessica Koizumi, and backup goalie Genevieve Lacasse, Canada’s third goalie from the Sochi Olympics.
The two teams took part in a four-team round robin during the week and arrived at the final game via different means. Boston was a perfect 3-0-0 and was the clear favourite heading into the championship game while Toronto had stunned the Montreal Stars on Friday in a shootout to earn a spot in the finals. Spooner had the decisive goal in that game.
Calgary, the western representative, was winless in its three games.
Kate Buesser had the game-winning goal in all three Boston wins and led the tournament with seven points, but she was held in check in the final game when it mattered the most.
Knight, tops with five goals, had a great chance to win the Cup in regulation. Late in the game, Toronto on a power play, Knight stole the puck and had a clear breakaway, but Kessler foiled the American sniper to keep the game scoreless.
That set the stage for Smith’s overtime winner. "I honestly don't even remember how we got in their end," Smith began, "but the puck went from Spooner behind the net over to Prevo [Caroline Prevost]. I saw some ice in front of me, skated ahead, got a perfect pass on the tape. I shot high-blocker and it just twirled in. Once I saw it cross the line, hands in the air, and that was it."
Spooner was named the game’s MVP. "This year couldn't really have been better for me," she said. "Obviously nothing beats winning an Olympic gold medal, but this is pretty sweet right now and I am really happy about it."
Clarkson Cup Champions
2013-14 Toronto Furies
2012-13 Boston Blades
2011-12 Montreal Stars
2010-11 Montreal Stars
2009-10 Minnesota Whitecaps
2008-09 Montreal Stars