(March 25, 2018)
(TORONTO – March 25, 2018) The Markham Thunder made history on Sunday afternoon (Mar. 24) defeating the Kunlun Red Star by a final of 2-1 in overtime at Ricoh Coliseum to claim their first Clarkson Cup in franchise history.
The Thunder franchise made the move to Markham this past offseason, previously hailing from Brampton where they made two appearances in the championship finals in 2012 and 2010.
Markham goaltender Erica Howe was named the Clarkson Cup MVP, presented by Gongshow. The three stars of the game were third star, Red Star forward Kelli Stack (1 goal), second star, Thunder forward Nicole Brown (1 goal), and first star, Thunder game-winning goal scorer Laura Stacey.
Markham earned their place in the championship game after a semi-final upset as the fourth and final seed, defeating the defending Clarkson Cup champion Les Canadiennes de Montreal in two straight games during their best-of-three playoff series. The Red Star, meanwhile, outlasted the Calgary Inferno in a three-game series which ended in a thrilling triple-overtime contest.
The afternoon began with both goaltenders demonstrating their outstanding ability. Kunlun netminder and CWHL Goaltender of the Year Noora Raty turned aside several early Thunder opportunities from offensive standout and Jayna Hefford Trophy winner Jamie Lee Rattray. On the other side of the rink, Howe was forced to stand tall early, shutting down chances by Red Star forwards Alex Carpenter and Shiann Darkangelo.
Just past the eight minute mark of the opening frame, the Thunder struck first. Following a hard point shot from Nicole Kosta, returning Olympian Laura Fortino was able to corral the puck behind the net before finding Brown out front for a quick shot which beat Raty. The Markham Thunder led 1-0 after the first period.
Raty continued to be put to the test in the second as the Thunder doubled-up on shots, outshooting the Red Star 24-12 through 40 minutes of play. The Olympic bronze medalist was outstanding in the period, including a spectacular effort where she got enough of a shot from Stacey to send it just across the crease, avoiding the goal line. With action dominating one end of the rink, opportunities for Kunlun came late in the period. On the powerplay with under one minute remaining in the second, Stack parked herself in front of the Thunder net where a Zoe Hickel shot deflected off her and past Howe for the equalizer. At the end of two periods, the score remained 1-1.
Excitement built within Ricoh Coliseum as a wide-open third period elevated the drama on the ice. Midseason free agent signing for the Thunder, Megan Bozek, made her presence felt with a few booming shots from the point which Raty controlled. At the other end, Carpenter was once again causing trouble for the Thunder defence, skillfully making her way to the slot before unleashing a shot which created a worthy rebound, however, Markham was able to clear away the danger. Both defensive units were pivotal in the closing minutes, sacrificing themselves for blocked shots in the final moments of regulation.
Just under three minutes into the extra frame, Kosta drives into the Kunlun zone down the left wing with Red Star defence Taylor Marchin tracking. Kosta would send the puck out front of the Kunlun net where an aggressive attack from Stacey allowed for her to tip the puck up and over the left shoulder of Raty for the overtime winner.
The 2018 Clarkson Cup was presented by Scotiabank, an official sponsor of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.