SUDBURY – In the end, the benefit of having been there before was evident.
With a core of players making their second straight appearance in the final of the Esso Cup tournament (five players were also part of the 2017 squad), the St Albert (Alberta) Slash stayed the course, downing Kapuskasing’s Alexe Clavelle’s Sudbury Lady Wolves 4-1 in the 2019 gold medal game at the Gerry McCrory Sports Complex Saturday afternoon.
Where the host team looked very much the part of a team that could hoist the hardware in the course of their 5-0 semi-final triumph over the Stoney Creek Sabres on Friday night, that same jump and energy fell short less than 24 hours later.
Still, despite the Lady Wolves not quite firing on all cylinders, this was a game that truthfully wasn’t decided until the tail-end of period three. With a sold-out crowd in attendance, the Sudbury girls overcame the early jitters, escaping the first period with a 1-0 lead when Taylor Scott roofed a power-play goal with under three minutes remaining in the frame.
Clavelle and Mylène Lefebvre drew assists on the play. Where that deficit in the face on an opposing home ice crowd might have intimidated some teams, the two-time defending champion Slash would have none of it.
Defenceman and University of Alberta commit Taylor Anker drilled a shot that was deflected off the stick of a Lady Wolves defender, finding the top corner just 2:38 into the middle stanza.
The offensive depth of the St Albert side came to light in this contest as Mackenzie Kordic, who was limited to just one assist in six previous games, utilized a Sudbury blueliner as the perfect screen, wiring a shot high glove side for her first of two straight markers midway through the frame, and the tally would stand as the game-winning goal.
With the Lady Wolves misfiring on a few opportunities in tight in the final half of the second, the Slash calmed the waters in period three, limiting the host side to chances that were few and far between.
With time running out, Kordic and company iced the contest, as the 6’1” forward jumped all over a loose puck with her team holding a man advantage, silencing the crowd with the 3-1 goal at 14:54 of the third.
Dayle Ross added a late empty-net strike as Sudbury outshot St Albert 34-32, settling for silver medals, to go along with gold in 2015 and bronze in 2014. Still, it was a good year, overall, for the OWHA (Ontario Women’s Hockey Association).
The second entry from the host province would round out the podium finishers in dramatic fashion, surprising the Saskatoon Stars 3-2 in a shootout. Goals by Calli Arnold (2:57 – 2nd) and Grace Shirley (0:48 – 3rd) loomed large for Saskatoon, with the Stars limiting the much-younger Sabres to just 14 shots through two periods of play.
But a power play effort from Tessa Holk (3:28 – 3rd) breathed some life into the Stoney Creek bench, with the host of the 2014 Esso Cup pulling even thanks to an ill-timed Stars’ line change with the man advantage.
With the puck chipped past the sole Saskatoon player on the far side of the ice, Alicia Juras raced in alone from the red line, making a deft double-deke in tight to equalize the contest.
A four on four ten minute overtime session was, quite honestly, a lesson in survival for the Sabres, with the puck seldom leaving their zone in the extra session and the Stars outshooting the Ontario crew 9-1, but unable to beat goaltender Megan Warrener.
Reaching the shootout was clearly the game plan for Stoney Creek as the quartet of Jenna Duarte, Alicia Juras, Vanessa Upson and Alyssa Kawa went 4/4, while Warrener was beaten only by Joelle Fiala in three attempts for Saskatoon.
For her part, Clavelle had a stellar tournament despite the final result, picking up 10 points (6G, 4A) during the round-robin portion of the championships and adding another assist in the championship game.
Look to future editions of La Presse Communautaire/The Community Press for a full interview with Alexe Clavelle.