by Mark Staffieri
MARKHAM, Ont. – With the Clarkson Cup being recognized widely as the Stanley Cup of women’s hockey, fans in New England have been privileged to witness some of the greatest hockey in the world. Starting with the Boston Bruins claiming the Stanley Cup in 2011, the Boston Blades have followed with a triumph of their own – winning the 2013 Clarkson Cup this past Saturday, March 23 at the Centennial Community Centre in Markham.
In the early 21st century, Boston has established itself as one the finest sporting regions in North America. With the Blades historic win this season, Beantown became the first sports city in North America in this century to have had its sports teams win five major championships: the Super Bowl (2001, 2003-04), the World Series (2004, 2007), the NBA Finals (2008), the Stanley Cup (2011), and now the Clarkson Cup (2013).
With the Blades becoming the first American-based squad from the CWHL to claim the Clarkson Cup (the Minnesota Whitecaps were part of the WWHL), the great stories that have emanated from the victory will become legendary for generations to come.
Having played with league leading scorer Meghan Agosta-Marciano of the Montreal Stars at the NCAA level at Mercyhurst College, Kelley Steadman has emerged as her own star. Also a member of the United States women’s national team, Steadman logged a natural hat trick in the championship game.
“This is definitely the biggest game of my CWHL career. To win this game is to make history for my team,” Steadman said.
“Jen Schoullis had a really good game. I think we knew coming in to stay out of the box,” she said. “Montreal has a strong power play and we had to play with cooler heads.”
Boasting the best defence in the league all season, head coach Digit Murphy acknowledged the blue line’s contribution in making the squad’s Clarkson Cup dreams come true. “The best game starts at the back. All we did was talk about puck movement. We had two strong power play units today, and Steady’s power play performance was just amazing.”
Standing between the pipes in Boston’s historic win, Genevieve Lacasse became the first rookie in CWHL history to win the Clarkson Cup. When asked if she was excited about being part of such a historic accomplishment, she replied, “Yes, it is.” Gracious and humble, she was quick to acknowledge the mentoring of veteran goaltender Molly Schaus. “My goalie partner Molly Schaus taught me a lot over the weekend.”
Boston’s Clarkson Cup win was historic on many levels. Besides Lacasse becoming the first rookie goaltender to win the Clarkson Cup, Katerina (Katka) Mrazova would become the first European to claim the title. “It is like a dream,” she said. “The CWHL is the best league in the world. Every player who plays wants to win. ”
Cherie Hendrickson’s father was the founder of the Boston Blades. With her father in attendance, the victory had an emotional meaning for her. “I am really excited. He started the team in Boston and he is the reason that we have the team here. To have him celebrate with us is unbelievable.”
Anne Schleper (along with Jen Schoullis) had the opportunity to win the 2012 NCAA Division 1 Frozen Four Championship with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. Having graduated to the CWHL, the opportunity to win a Clarkson Cup in 2013 is one that Schleper truly treasures. “I am pretty blessed to be here for two of these great opportunities. I feel like I just won the national championship again!”
The Golden Gophers connection on the Blades makes for a great experience for Schleper, “There are actually a couple of us here from Minnesota. It is fun that Jen and I played together for four years at Minnesota,” Schleper said. “She scored two goals for us. She also came up big for us at Minnesota.”
Having made the transition from forward to defence, Gigi Marvin’s team-first approach paid remarkable dividends for the black and gold. “We played well and came together as a team. The girls come to the game with their jerseys on. We are very thankful and love to play.”
With fellow Golden Gophers alumnae like Schleper and Schoullis on the team, it made the Clarkson Cup win even much more special. “Obviously it has been fun for all of us,” Marvin said.
In addition, Marvin and her fellow Gophers were ecstatic about the Gophers competing in the 2013 NCAA Frozen Four (held on the same weekend). “On Friday, we watched the girls win (their semi-final game).”
While teammates like Meghan Duggan and Hilary Knight were collegiate rivals against Marvin, their background helped to bond on the Blades. “Having played in the WCHA (Western Collegiate Hockey Association), we became fast friends. We love each other and we (are proud of) our Boston jerseys.”