By Matt Defalco and Craig Hagerman
The Montreal Stars' Ann-Sophie Bettez preserved her team's chances to win the Clarkson Cup by scoring a hat trick that included the game-winning goal in a 5-4 victory over the Calgary Inferno.
The Markham Centennial Centre played host to the explosive Thursday evening matchup, which featured 26 penalty minutes and five goals in the third period alone.
The game's first period was scoreless, and although that may appear to be an unexpected result because of Montreal's possession of the CWHL's top four scoring leaders, the league's MVP Bettez had a different perspective on how the Clarkson Cup's games would play out.
"It's a new season, it's a tournament – playoffs – and so everything changes," said Bettez after the victory. "You have to forget what happened [during the season]. You have to have a fresh start and move on from there."
The Inferno's Danielle Stone opened the scoring in the second period at 4:59 after receiving a pass from Julie Paetsch, splitting the defence, and firing a wrist shot over the glove of Catherine Herron.
Bettez, the CWHL's points leader, scored her first goal of the night quickly after Stone's by rifling a shot above the Calgary goaltender's blocker at 6:35, with Catherine Oullette earning her first of three assists on the play.
Cathy Chartrand, Montreal's captain, followed her teammate's lead by shoveling the puck past Brian less than two minutes later, during a four-on-four opportunity.
While on a power play in the dying seconds of the period, Montreal's Dominique Thibault scored on a rebound off of a point shot by Chartrand to put the Stars up 3- 1. That lead was not satisfactory for Montreal's captain, who knew the risks of getting too comfortable in this type of a tournament, a danger the Inferno would later prove with their third period three-goal outburst.
"We talked about [the lead] between periods, we didn't want to sit back," said Chartrand after the game. "They just came back hard and it was very competitive." Calgary's Paetsch scored the first of three Inferno goals in the third period at 9:12, with Danielle Stone's being assisted by Jenna Cunninham, and Abygail Laking's coming with five seconds remaining.
Bettez scored her second goal of the game at 6:18 on the power play, giving the Stars a short-lived two-goal lead, and an empty-net goal with 25 seconds left in the game gave Bettez her hat trick.
Stars goaltender Catherine Herron, who led the CWHL in GAA, stopped 14 shots, while the Inferno's Brian managed 21 saves on 25 shots.
Coming into the matchup, both Calgary and Montreal had lost their previous games in the tournament. Montreal's victory over Calgary leaves the Inferno with a record of 0-2, eliminating their chances at winning the Clarkson Cup.
"It's heartbreaking," the Inferno's Stone said in a post-game interview. "But just because we are here and we lost two games doesn't mean we aren't here to compete.
"We are a team able to compete with every single team here."
Montreal will take on the Toronto Furies at 11 a.m. on Friday morning, while the Inferno will face the Boston Blades in the evening's matchup.