U18 Women’s Worlds, and a Link Round-Up!

U18 Women’s Worlds:

So the 2014 U18 Women’s Worlds wrapped up yesterday, with Canada taking gold for the third year in a row. There’s a write up of the game (a rough, 1-5 loss for the US) over at the IIHF website if you’re interested in checking that out. (My off the cuff summary is that the US started out strong and then defensively collapsed in the late second, and never got it back. A sadly depressing trend for the US there.)

A couple other notable take-aways from the U18 Women’s Worlds:

The Czech Republic and Russia played for bronze, with the Czech Republic eventually winning 1-0 in a tightly fought game. I was very impressed by Russia’s defense in this game– especially when my main memory of the Russian Olympic team’s defense was the lack of structure and a lack of control in their own zone. If this is the future wave of Russian players, I’m looking forward to see that progression. (This is also the first time Russia’s made it into a medal game at the U18 WW, hopefully speaking to an increase in investment in developing their players.)

Notably, the Czech Republic’s goal tender, Klara Peslarova, was selected by the Directorate as the best goaltender of the tournament. Other selections by the Directorate include the US’ Jincy Dunne as the best defender, and Taylar Cianfarano, also of the US, as the best forward.

  • You’ll be hearing more from us about the NCAA Championship shortly, but Gabriella Fundaro of The Hockey Writers wrote an interesting article about Clarkson, and how we look at success in hockey.
  • Rebecca Ruiz talks about her experience with concussions in women’s sport. This is a soccer player, talking about her experience in soccer culture, but it raises some real concerns about how we treat concussions, not just in sport, but in women’s sport particularly, where athletes do not have the support structures that the men do. (Warning, I have some concussion history, and Ruiz’s description of her concussion was very unpleasant for me. Well worth reading, but I had to take a moment.)
  • Ian Kennedy of the Chatham-Kent Sports Network wrote about Where Women’s Hockey Can Go Next. Kennedy spoke with several Chatham-Kent women players about what they would like to see in the development of the women’s game. One of the more interesting things to me was the idea of a developmental league like the OHL or CHL, or the possibility of expanding the Provincial Women’s Hockey League (the PWHL is a league for juniors-aged women players) beyond Ontario. I think there would have to be something for them to want to get to, however, beyond college or international play that’s only paid attention to every four years– a league that could sustain a career. (And then we get into chicken or the egg argument, sigh.)
  • Women’s Hockey Stats has the stats behind this year’s CWHL Awards winners. I’d second Ott as a better choice than Brian for Goaltender of the Year, stats-wise. I’ve GOT to track down a copy of the Awards Ceremony, maybe they explain there a bit more. Are we missing something in terms of community involvement? I just don’t know.
  • Speaking of goalies, Inside Halton did an article on how Kessler backed the Toronto Furies to their first Clarkson Cup.

2014 Clarkson Cup: Toronto Furies Win First Clarkson Cup Title Over Boston Blades, 1-0

What a game.

Both the Toronto Furies and the Boston Blades started out tentative. Toronto had a slight edge in shots in the first, and managed just a little more cycling in Boston’s zone than vice versa, but overall, there were a lot of missed passes and fumbling plays in the neutral zone. I got the feeling, watching, that both teams were waiting for the other to break out. Natalie Spooner was by far the most noticeable player – yes, in spite of Knight and Stack being heavily used on Boston’s top line. I said on Twitter that I don’t think Spooner ever bothers even entering the zone without possession. She’s an incredibly dynamic force. Buesser took a stupid penalty, but Toronto failed to capitalize; Boston also had a weak power play, spending more time fishing the puck out of their own zone than putting shots on Toronto’s net. Late in the period, Kelli Stack intercepted a pass right in front of Kessler, but Kessler kept her from being able to elevate, and the game stayed 0-0.

The second period was a lot more active, with both teams being a lot less tentative. Toronto controlled play much more early on, cycling and putting shots on Ott. Things settled down midway through the second period, but play picked up again towards the end of the period, with both teams getting chances deep in the zone. Kessler and Ott were by far the most outstanding players on the ice, but Koizumi was putting in hard work for Boston, and Bonhomme was creating chances for Toronto. It’s worth noting that Boston tried to put a lot of pucks on Kessler from the point, which was, obviously, not effective. Play was also focused quite a bit on the boards, with both teams doing their share of dumping and chasing, and passing along the boards.

Ott had be sharp early in the third, with Toronto again coming roaring out of the gate. Boston got a power play on a weak Bonhomme interference call, but they didn’t do much of it. The story of Boston this game was looking for the perfect play, and not finding it. Stack and Knight in particular were not quite connecting; passes would be just a bit too far ahead or behind, or Boston would lose the puck at the blue line. Though it didn’t show on the scoreboard, Toronto disrupted Boston’s usual style of play to a remarkable degree. Boston couldn’t steamroll them, and Toronto took away the space to make plays that Boston’s used to having. Boston actually had to take a tripping penalty in the third, Naslund hauling down a Toronto player on a breakaway. Of course, soon after that, Hilary Knight got a breakaway in the other direction, but Kessler absolutely stoned her. Toronto got a late power play, but nothing came of it, and the game went to overtime.

But OT didn’t take long. Thirty-three seconds in, Smith put a shot on net, Spooner tipped it, and the Furies won their first Clarkson Cup ever, 1-0.

More casually than an actual recap: damn, what a game. The CWHL generally isn’t the same level as the Olympics, and I’m not going to pretend it is. There’s more on the line in the Olympics, and the national teams are better funded. But the Clarkson Cup is the best of CWHl play, and the best of CWHL play is pretty damn good. Prevost was outstanding (and part of that OT goal); Ott, Kesser, Spooner, Bolden, and Knight were all outstanding. There are more players than that who contributed and had their moments to shine. Overall, it was just a great game of hockey to watch, and I’m glad I got to see it live. Last year’s Clarkson Cup game was televised late on TSN2 but not streamed anywhere, and I’m pretty sure the streaming this year is due to pressure from fans to have a way to watch it live. And it was definitely worth it. Tense hockey, great opportunities at both ends, evenly matched teams, and a dramatic, historic finish. What more could you want?

We’ll be back tomorrow with coverage of the women’s NCAA final. Until then, rest on your laurels, Furies. You earned it.

2014 CWHL Awards:

2014 CWHL Awards:

Chairman’s Trophy
(awarded to the top team)
The Montreal Stars
(42 points in the 2013-14 season)
Humanitarian Award Cassie Campbell Pascall
Angela James Bowl Ann-Sophie Bettez, Montreal Stars
(with 40 points for regular season scoring title)
Coach of the Year Sommer West, Toronto Furies
Rookie of the Year Jillian Dempsey, Boston Blades
(with 28 points)
Goaltender of the Year Delayne Brian, Calgary Inferno
Defenceman of the Year Cathy Chartrand, Montreal Stars
(with 30 points)
Most Valuable Player Ann-Sophie Bettez, Montreal Stars

So, some of these are pretty straight forward– top team, top scorer– but the choice for goaltender is somewhat interesting. Delayne Brian is not the top goalie in the league by just about any stat you choose to use; in general, she’s middling to the bottom, stat-wise. (Check out the goalie tab there to see all of the goalies for the CWHL regular season.) There has to be some other reason that Brian was given this award, but we weren’t able to watch the Awards Gala, and we haven’t found anything. Anyone got any more information on this? Bueller?

Friday Afternoon Clarkson Cup UPDATE:

Friday Clarkson Cup UPDATE:

First off, sorry, I screwed up the times in our earlier post. Montreal played Toronto THIS MORNING, and Calgary plays Boston tonight.

That said, Toronto, in something of an upset, beat Montreal in a tightly fought 2-1 shoot out victory. That was a GREAT game of hockey to watch, and the shoot out was NERVE WRACKING. Toronto will be going on to face Boston tomorrow in the Clarkson Cup Final!

In another exciting update, the Clarkson Cup Final WILL be streamed! Remember, that game is happening at 2 PM EDT tomorrow, Saturday, March 22nd.

Friday Roundup: Clarkson Cup, Frozen Four, and weekend reading

Friday Roundup: Clarkson Cup, Frozen Four, and weekend reading

Concept art for the 2014 Clarkson Cup Championship rings tweeted out by Caroline Ouellette.
Concept art for the 2014 Clarkson Cup Championship rings tweeted out by Caroline Ouellette.

IT’S FRIDAY, EVERY ONE! This has been a long and trying week for me, so I’m glad to see the tail end of it. However, the ongoing Clarkson Cup games have been a bright spot, so let’s recap:

  • Wednesday: Toronto beat Calgary, 3-2, and Boston beat Montreal a very tightly contested 1-0
  • Thursday: Boston beat the Furies, 2-1, and Montreal beat Calgary 5-4.

As of the time of this post being written, Calgary is out of Finals contention, but have one last game this morning against an unbeaten and Finals-bound Boston. Montreal and Toronto will play for that second Finals slot versus Boston this evening. Finals will be played on Saturday, at 2pm EDT. However, they will not be streamed live. They will be shown on TSN midnight Saturday and Monday at 7:30 pm, EDT. No word yet on what those of us south of the border or otherwise out of TSN coverage will be able to do.

The commentary on these streaming games has been done by Nicco Cardarelli, whose voice may be familiar to you from regular-season CWHL streaming games, and Asher Roth, who you may remember from last year’s Clarkson Cup commentary. They’ve been pretty charming in their enthusiasm for the CWHL and women’s hockey in general, and have been great about interacting with questions or comments tweeted at them during the games. A little startled by how much interest the Clarkson Cup has been getting outside of Canada, however. 🙂 Aly Munro has been doing some great interviews rink-side, and commentary as well.

NCAA Frozen Four!

Minnesota is set to take on Wisconsin today at 5 PM EDT today! For an excellent preview of the game, check out Nicole Haase’s over at Bucky’s 5th Quarter.

Mercyhurst takes on Clarkson at 8 PM EDT today as well! This is Clarkson’s first trip to the Frozen Four. Remember, all of these games will be streamed on NCAA.com.

The winners of these games will meet in the National Championship game on Sunday, at 3 PM EDT. The Patty Kazmaier will be awarded on Saturday, as part of the NCAA Championship weekend.

Weekend Reading:

I know, I missed the normal link round-up for this week, but here’s some stuff to read while you’re waiting to find a copy of the Clarkson Cup final to watch:

NCAA Women’s Hockey: Women’s Frozen Four Preview

Minnesota v Wisconsin, an upper Midwest matchup at 5 EST on Friday
Minnesota v Wisconsin, an upper Midwest match-up at 5 EST on Friday (Image copyright Doug Wallick)

It’s time for an NCAA preview by someone who barely follows the NCAA!

I’ll be honest, following the CWHL, plus my other sports loyalties, takes up enough time – and NCAA regular season women’s hockey games aren’t generally streamed in my area. So I come to the Frozen Four with the enthusiasm of a very dumb, uninformed fan. (For good Badger coverage, check out Nicole Haase’s twitter here.) According to the NCAA’s website, the matchups this year are Minnesota-Wisconsin and Clarkson-Mercyhurst. Exciting!

One of the bigger stories this year is Clarkson’s first trip to the Frozen Four. Mind, they won 3-1 over a BC team that was without Carpenter, but it’s still an exciting moment for them. Last year, the semifinals were  Minnesota-BC, and BU-Mercyhurst, with Minnesota and BU advancing to the final. Not so this year.

Minnesota has continued to be dominant this year, even without Noora Räty, Megan Bozek, and Amanda Kessel. That’s not really surprising; their recruitment is outstanding and their team is stacked. They’ll be facing the Badgers in the semifinal. The Badgers sold out LaBahn arena to defeat Harvard and earn a berth in the Frozen Four. You can get a recap of that game here.

Anyway, more educated minds than mine have written plenty about the actual hockey aspects of the Frozen Four. I fully intend to sit on my couch with my laptop and yell SHOOOOOOOT as I watch NCAA hockey. This is your reminder that the Frozen Four WILL be streamed on the NCAA’s website here, and if you’re so inclined, you can watch video of last year’s contests as well. Fun for the whole family!

We will be watching (and tweeting) the Gophers-Badgers game at the very least. We encourage everyone else to tune in, too.

How to Watch Women’s Hockey: Chromecast edition

How to Watch Women’s Hockey: Chromecast edition

So, at this point, I hope you know the CWHL streamed one game a week this past season, and all of those games are archived, free to watch, on the CWHL website. Also, all but the final of the Clarkson Cup will be streamed (and I am watching Toronto play Calgary while I write this), also for free. There’s also a decent handful of women’s hockey games to be found on Fast Hockey, if you poke around. (Generally, USA Hockey will have stuff up there.) And, you know, it’s fine to watch hockey on your laptop, but I’ve gotten totally spoiled by watching NHL hockey in HD on my giant-ass 50-inch TV, and it’s hard to have friends over to watch the hockey game when you all have to crowd around your laptop. So, my mind turned to how to get that stream on my TV.

There’s a couple of options here. If your laptop has a HDMI port, and your TV does too, that works pretty well! Buuutttt sometimes your laptop is like my laptop, and pitches a shit-fit over displaying on a screen that much bigger than the native one. It can also distort the video, depending on how the streaming video is encoded. So I started investigating other options among the various add-ons, and the cheapest I found was the Google Chromecast. It’s marketed at $35 US, and it’s pretty easy to get a hold of—you can buy it from Google directly, or, at least in the US, go to just about any major electronics retailer to pick one up. It has also been released in Canada and Europe. It’s a small dongle that plugs into a HDMI port on your TV, and needs to also be plugged into an outlet.

The Chromecast’s main claim to fame is that as long as you have Google’s Chrome browser, on just about any platform (including mobile and Linux-based systems), you can stream that browser tab to your TV. Since the CWHL stream works just fine in Chrome, I figured I’d try that out.

Setup was pretty easy—you plug the Chromecast into the HDMI port on your tv, plug the included USB power cable into the Chromecast and into an outlet, switch your TV input to the HDMI port, and get walked through a really simple set-up process on your laptop or mobile device. (I use Ubuntu on my home computer, and Google warned me that the setup process was not fully supported on my operating system, but I did it on my Android tablet instead, and it worked just fine.) You then have to install a Chrome plugin to be able to “cast” your browser to the Chromecast, but again, pretty simple. You end up with a “Cast to Chromecast” button on your browser bar.

Since I was doing this on a night without a live-streamed game, I pulled up an archived CWHL game, buffered it a bit, and then tried to cast the game to my TV. It worked, but the dual-streaming (on my laptop, and then to the TV) was much more laggy than normal. Unwatchably laggy. However, when I did have a picture, it was much better than the normal video quality on the CWHL stream; it was about what I would normally expect of an HD NHL game on cable. Sound quality was also great. However, that laggy-ness when streaming wasn’t gonna work for me. So I poked around a bit more.

Now, what I hadn’t realized before I started poking around for this, is that the CWHL archived game links are just links to the raw .MP4 file. So instead of just clicking and streaming the game, I right-clicked on the link, and saved it to my computer. It was a pretty big file, about 1.5 GB, which makes sense if it’s a roughly 2 hour HD file. Then I opened this file up in Chrome, and that streamed just fine. Emboldened by my success, I went on to try streaming on my iPhone and Android tablet.

Now, if you own an Android-based mobile device, you might have noticed that the CWHL games don’t stream well on them, because it’s a Flash-based player. However, you can still download the archived files and play them using a video app on your device. There are some Android apps that will stream to a Chromecast, too—I tried this using an app called Real Player Cloud, which aside from playing videos, also syncs videos across devices and a web player, like the Dropbox service does for files. It’s really nice because the service will also reformat the video on the fly for different video resolutions or devices. There’s an Android app, iOS, and a web player, and you get a couple of gigs free space—enough to throw up a CWHL game or two, but not very many.

On my iPhone, streaming the CWHL games has always worked great, if a bit small on the screen. Streaming the game and streaming it to my Chromecast was, again, too laggy to be worth it. Downloading the file and streaming it with Real Player Cloud, however, worked like a charm.

So, tl;dr, sadly, the Chromecast isn’t going to fulfill my dreams of streaming live CWHL games to my TV. However, it does work very well for streaming local files to my TV—and you can download CWHL games locally. I’d been planning on having some friends over to watch the Clarkson Cup games, so I’ll be using my Chromecast to do that later this week. Tech-wise, I felt it was pretty easy to set up, and aside from downloading new games, was mainly one-time set up.

CWHL Weekend Roundup: Regular season wraps up with Calgary sweeping Brampton, and Boston sweeping Toronto.

CWHL Weekend Roundup: Regular season wraps up with Calgary sweeping Brampton, and Boston sweeping Toronto, looking forward to Clarkson Cup!

Quick wrap up of this weekend’s action: Friday, the Calgary Inferno won 4-3 over the Brampton Thunder in overtime. On Saturday, they won again 4-3, this time in regulation. Sunday, the Inferno won 4-0 over Brampton. This puts Calgary at 25 points for the season.

The other series this last weekend was Boston and Toronto. Tied for points at the start of the series, they were neck and neck for second place in the league. Then, on Saturday, Boston beat Toronto 4-2, taking the lead. On Sunday, Toronto had the chance to tie them up again, but lost in overtime, 4-3.

This weekend’s action gives us the following playoff group:

  1. Montreal Stars, with 42 points
  2. Boston Blades, with 26 points
  3. Calgary Inferno, with 25 points
  4. Toronto Furies, with 23 points.

The Clarkson Cup festivities will kick off today with an awards gala today, Tuesday March 18th. Prime Minister Harper will be speaking at this event. Some of the awards given out will include the Angela James Bowl, given for the season’s scoring leader. (That’s going to be going to Ann-Sophie Bettez of the Montreal Stars, with 40 points in 23 games.)

The games themselves start tomorrow, and will culminate in Saturday’s Championship Final. All the games EXCEPT the Final will be streamed live on the CWHL site; the Final will be shown on TSN, and from what I can tell, it won’t be live. If you’re able to get TSN, check your local listings. If you’re not, well. All of our inquiries as to if it’s going to be available anywhere else have been met with “we’re trying to work something out, we’ll let you know”, but who knows.

As for the match ups, we’re excited to see the Inferno in their first Clarkson Cup playoffs! Boston and Montreal, of course, are the previous winners (along with the now defunct Minnesota Whitecaps), and while Montreal has been the stronger team this season, hopefully the returning Olympians will kick Boston up that notch they need to win back to back Cups. Women’s Hockey Life has some more detailed predictions, and Women’s Hockey Stats has the predictions by the numbers, so check those out if you’re looking for more intense Cup predictions.

For our own off the cuff analysis, much as my underdog heart would love for Calgary to make it deep, Elena and I think it’s going to come down to Montreal and Boston again. We’re divided over the winner however– she says Boston, I’m thinking Montreal. Either way, it’s going to be fun.

Clarkson Cup Schedule:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Calgary Inferno vs. Toronto Furies @ 11:00am
Montreal Stars vs. Boston Blades @ 7:30pm

Thursday March 20, 2014
Boston Blades vs. Toronto Furies @ 11:00am
Montreal Stars vs. Calgary Inferno @ 7:30pm

Friday, March 21, 2014
Montreal Stars vs. Toronto Furies @ 11:00am
Boston Blades vs. Calgary Inferno @ 7:30pm

Saturday, March 22, 2014
Championship Final @ 2:00pm

CWHL Weekend Preview: Regular season wraps up this weekend!

CWHL Weekend Preview: Regular season wraps up this weekend!

So, we have a wealth of games this weekend! Remember, this is the end of the regular season, and with the standings SO CLOSE, this weekend is going to determine a lot of the seeding for the playoffs. Seven points out of contention, and with three games this weekend, Brampton won’t be able to make it into the playoffs– but they can sure as hell wreck havoc on the seeding.
As of Friday morning, the standings are:

  • Montreal Stars, with 42 points on 23 games
  • Boston Blades, with 22 points on 22 games
  • Toronto Furies, with 22 points on 21 games
  • Calgary Inferno, with 19 points on 21 games
  • Brampton Thunder, with 12 points on 21 games

Montreal is a lock for first, but the rest of the playoff teams are pretty up in the air at this point. Very exciting! Sadly, there is not a streaming game this weekend, but remember, all Calgary games have a live radio call that you can listen to, either streaming live from the CWHL website, or download later as a podcast from IGNITE (That’s also on iTunes, if you use that for podcasts– search for Calgary Inferno!). The podcast includes all the intermission interviews, which can be super interesting– I highly recommend checking that out. And with three Calgary games this weekend, you’ll have a chance to follow things along pretty well. 🙂

Things kick off tonight, Friday, at 7 pm CDT, with Brampton going to visit Calgary for the first of their three meetings this weekend. They meet again on Saturday at 2 PM CDT.

The other game on Saturday is at 6:35 PM CDT, between the Toronto Furies and the Boston Blades. It’s the first of a two game series this weekend that could be crucial for the two teams, as they’re currently tied for second in the league.

On Sunday, the games kick off at 10:00 AM CDT, with a game between the Brampton Thunder and the Calgary Inferno. Excitingly, this game will be the Saddledome, and admission will be free! You can check out more about that on the Inferno’s Facebook page. The other game on Sunday will be the final game between the Toronto Furies and the Boston Blades, at 12:35 PM CDT.

And that’s it, that’s the end of the season! Stick around through, playoffs are just about to start.

Mid-Week Link Round Up: Räty, and the Kaz, and Sportsnet, oh my!

Jamie Lee Rattray
Jamie Lee Rattray, Junior at Clarkson
Hannah Brandt
Hannah Brandt, Sophomore at University of Minnesota
Jillian Saulnier
Jillian Saulnier, Junior at Cornell
  •  The three Patty Kazmaier finalists have been named! You can see the announcement over at USA Hockey. You can check out their stats, along with the other top ten finalists, over at Women’s Hockey Stats. Stats are, as always, not the only thing that goes into the Kazmaier award, but they’re pretty important.
  • In case you haven’t heard this, Noora Räty has entered an agreement for next season with Kiekko-Vantaa, a team in the second-tier Finnish men’s league Mestis. We don’t have a ton of info about this, and what we have has been pieced together with Google Translate, but here’s a very short article about it from the official Mestis site (in Finnish), and a slightly longer article from Yle, a Finnish new site (also in Finnish). We are now hastily trying to find good apps/websites to follow the Mestis league, and I’m cursing the day I took German instead of Finnish. I’m really hoping she gets some playing time. 🙂 Mestis is also the league where Hayley Wickenheiser played briefly.
  • With Sportsnet unveiling their “new” line-up of top talent for Hockey Night in Canada, there’s been some scuffles on Twitter and elsewhere about the diversity in their selection (or rather, lack there of). One of the best and most balanced articles we’ve seen on this is over at SBNation’s Silver Seven Sens. It hits on the big issue that what women there are in the analyst pipeline (and they are few) are poorly used, and often only trotted out for “the pretty” value, or when a regular cancels. In our view, it’s a lot of the classic issues of getting women into male-dominated fields, with the extra cheery on top of “but you didn’t play the game“, with the game always meaning, of course, NHL hockey. We’d love to see more recognition of this, and, as always, more women in our hockey coverage.
  • In other NCAA news, on Sunday the eight teams who will play for the NCAA Women’s Hockey Championship were announced! You can check out that announcement over at the NCAA website. Keep an eye out for more on this! The quarterfinals will be kicking off on March 15th, and the semifinals and championship games will be streamed live on the NCAA website.
  • The Minnesota Gophers visited the White House as part of an event recognizing 19 different collegiate champion teams. You can read more about it over at the Star Tribune and MN Daily, but one of the things I’ve seen mentioned in multiple places was how much emphasis Obama put on the importance of women’s sports, and the growth of women’s athletics. Nice to hear. You can also check out the Storified tweets from various Gopher twitter accounts, collected by the official Gopher’s Women’s Hockey twitter, over here.