By Mark Staffieri, CWHL
In the three game series between Team Alberta and the Brampton Hockey Club, the story of the series was goaltending. Swiss goaltender and Northeastern Huskies hockey legend Florence Schelling was selected by the Montreal Stars in the 2012 CWHL Draft. Despite the draft status, she was suited up for Brampton in the series.
With an embarrassment of riches at the goaltender position, the Montreal Stars simply did not have room for everyone. Featuring Jenny Lavigne, who led the Stars to the 2012 Clarkson Cup, and multiple Winter Games gold medalists Charline Labonte and Kim St. Pierre, the Stars have the finest goaltending tandem in the CWHL. "The Montreal Club released Schelling for one season to the Brampton Club, so that she could see action in the CWHL this season. We wanted to be sure that a goalie of her caliber had options for advancing her career," stated Stars General Manager Meg Hewings.
Team Alberta selected British Columbia resident Hillary Pattenden, the all-time winningest goaltender in NCAA history. The squad invested their first pick overall in Pattenden during the 2012 CWHL Draft. Much to the surprise of all in the organization, Hillary Pattenden decided not to play this season. As the team tries to build towards a postseason berth, the Alberta goaltending tandem consists of Kathryn Desjardins and Jillian MacIsaac.
In the first contest of the series, Brampton would have Liz Knox stand between the pipes. During the first two periods, Alberta remained competitive as they gained the lead twice. Less than two minutes into the start of the October 27 contest, Kerri Sanders would score the first goal for Alberta. The rest of the period would be a stout defensive display, but Vicki Bendus would make her presence felt as she tied the game with 1:47 left. Bailey Bram and Lori Dupuis assisted on the goal.
The second period would see Alberta regain the lead with an unassisted goal by Erika Kromm. Six minutes after Kromm’s goal, Bram tied the game, with Bendus assisting. Jayna Hefford, the all-time leading scorer in Brampton history buried the puck past Desjardins at the 14:50 mark of the second. Bram would score again before the period ended as her second goal of the game stood as the game winner.
At the 0:52 mark of the third, Bendus scored again as she capped off her evening with a superlative 4 point performance. Tara Watchorn would assist on the final goal of the game, as Kristin Labrie logged the third goal of the night for Alberta. The rest of the period saw Brampton protect their lead as Liz Knox earned the win. "It was a bit surprising to score three goals so quickly. Scoring them all in the second period was exciting because the game was still very tight. I’m always happy anytime I can contribute to our team winning. My linemates made some great plays that period and I was able to finish them off," stated Bendus.
On October 28, Florence Schelling made her CWHL debut. In the first period, Kerri Sanders of Alberta would score the first goal that Schelling would allow in her CWHL career. At the 13:16 mark, Sanders logged said goal, with the assist going to Stephanie Roy. Despite Alberta holding a 1-0 lead after the first period, Brampton dominated the rest of the game.
The second period would see one of the finest performances of the season as Vicki Bendus scored a hat trick. Of note, every goal scored resulted in different players assisting. Laura McIntosh and Tara Gray assisted on the first goal, scored at the 3:26 mark. Sarah Moe would earn the assist on Bendus’ second marker, as Brampton took a 2-1 lead at the 7:10 mark. Stephanie Roy of Alberta would disrupt Bendus’ attempt at logging a natural hat trick as she tied the game at 16:32. Less than two minutes later, Bendus scored again, with the assists going to Bailey Bram and Lori Dupuis. The goal would stand as the game winner.
Heading into the third period, Brampton erupted for five unanswered goals. Sarah Moe and Vicki Bendus would each log two goals, while Bailey Bram logged the final goal of the game on Alberta backstop Jillian MacIsaac. A total of 8 different Brampton skaters would earn points in the third period.
Despite the outstanding goal production, the irony is that Brampton was unable to benefit from several power play opportunities. The 8:14 mark of the final stanza saw both clubs draw a penalty. Meaghan Mikkelson called for a ten minute penalty as a result of a head contact misconduct. Brampton’s Jennifer Kirk found herself called for holding. With less than 2 minutes in the third, Alberta melted down and was called for three penalties; Jocelyne Larocque for slashing (18:07), Jenna Cunningham for holding (18:41), and Chelsea Purcell for slashing as well (19:42).
The October 29 saw Alberta regroup in the third period, as the club faced a 2-0 deficit during the second frame. Vicki Bendus continues to establish herself as an elite scorer in the CWHL as she logged the first two scores of the contest. Her former collegiate teammate, Bailey Bram earned assists on both goals. "The team is awesome, a great group of girls that are always having fun and making the best of every opportunity. At the same time it is very different from college, but we have a lot of veteran leadership that has made my transition very easy and enjoyable! I am really excited for what the rest of the season has in store for us!" proclaimed Bram
With only 6 seconds left in the second period, Jenna Cunningham put the puck past All-World backstop Florence Schelling. Said goal changed the momentum as Meaghan Mikkelson scored the game tying goal 29 seconds into the third. Assists went to Cunningham and Kristin Labrie. Red Deer resident Olivia Sutter (not related to the famous Sutter hockey family) made her impact felt as she scored her first goal of the season. Said season would stand as the game winner. To score a game winning goal against a goaltender of Florence Schelling’s caliber is one of the early highlights of her young season. "It felt really good to contribute to the team and get us fired up. The bounces weren’t going our way all weekend so hopefully that win is what we needed to turn things around, especially heading to Toronto for our next games," said Sutter.
While the first half of the third period saw Alberta score two goals, the second half was a stout defensive contest. Both clubs were called for penalties twice. Kristin Labrie was called for interference at the 14:12 mark. 56 seconds later, Brampton’s Charissa Stadnyk, the 2012 draft pick from Princeton was called for body checking. Jocelyne Larocque was called for tripping at 16:55, and Brampton was awarded a penalty shot. Alberta goaltender Kathryn Desjardins was successful in not allowing a goal. Lori Dupuis would be called for the final penalty of the game as Brampton was unable to tie the score. "Our team adjusted very well on Monday to do a much better job. In fact, our improved penalty killing against their 1-3-1 power play was a significant factor in our win. Beyond that, our 5 on 5 play was very good. We had some excellent stretches on the forecheck and our defensive zone coverage was good for early in the year. We need an adjustment or two there ," said Alberta head coach Tim Bothwell.
"One doesn’t need much coaching or hockey experience to identify penalty killing as the biggest area in need of improvement for us as we move ahead. If my math and memory is correct, 8 of Brampton’s 13 goals over the 3 games were scored on the power play, including 6 with a 5 on 3 advantage. They have an excellent group of very skilled forwards but no team should enjoy that kind of success over a 3 game stretch," stated Bothwell.
During the weekend series, Bendus led all skaters in scoring with an impressive ten points on seven goals and three assists. Bram was second in scoring with three goals and four assists for seven points. Her four assists led all skaters. Jenna Cunningham led all Alberta skaters with 3 points. Kerri Sanders’ 2 goals led all Alberta players, while Tara Watchorn tied with Cunningham for most assists by an Alberta player with 2, respectively. Bothwell concluded by stating, "The best thing about the weekend was the character we demonstrated with the big win on Monday, coming from behind and displaying an excellent work ethic throughout. We are all looking forward to our next league weekend in Toronto against another very skilled and talented team."