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CWHL Weekend Preview: Season openers, and streaming!

CWHL Season Opener Preview

The Brampton Thunder will face down Les Canadiennes on Saturday, October 17th at 4:30 PM CT / 5:30 PM ET in Desmarteau Arena, and again on Sunday, October 18th, at 12:30 PM CT / 1:30 PM ET.

Last year, the Brampton Thunder finished out the season at the bottom of the league with 14 points in 24 games, while the former Montreal Stars finished third, with 29 points in 24 games. Brampton’s made some changes, including a new head coach and the first overall draft pick, Sarah Edney. New head coach Tyler Fines is replacing former interim head coach Kristi Alcorn. Alcorn took over mid-last season to replace Pat Cocklin. While they had some heartening pre-season success, with a successful training camp and a 8-0 win in a pre-season matchup against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, we’ll see how this new Brampton Thunder looks against a star-studded Les Canadiennes. Aside from Caroline Ouellette, last season’s third top scorer in the league, and former Rookie of the Year Ann-Sophie Bettez, Les Canadiennes added the much heralded Marie-Philip Poulin, Scourge of the US Olympic Gold Dreams, among others. If you need to brush up on the new Les Habs roster, check out Habs Eyes On the Prize’s coverage.

The Boston Blades will take on the Toronto Furies on Saturday, October 17th at 6:30 PM CT / 7:30 PM ET in the Mastercard Center, and again on Sunday, October 18th at 12:30 PM CT / 1:30 PM ET.

There’s been a lot of talk about what players the Blades have lost to the NWHL, but the team Krista Patronick has assembled is still going to be an interesting one to watch. The roster has a lot of forwards, with 18 of 25 players being natural forwards. The thin blue line is going to be bolstered by the returning presence of Dru Burns and Tara Watchorn, but Patronick expects that some of those forwards will end up helping out as defenders as well. The Furies, who finished out last season fourth in the league, has also lost some key players, especially on defense. Toronto struggled last year offensively, especially on special teams, where they finished out league last on both the PK and the PP. Things at the start of the season might be even rougher– top forwards Jenelle Kohanchuk and Julie Allen are out with injury right now. While the Furies picked up several new forwards in the draft, the stand out is probably Emily Fulton, formerly of Cornell, where she put up 48 points in 32 games last season.

The Calgary Inferno will play their season opener October 24th, at home.

Streaming

The CWHL will have a record high 32 games streamed this season, and all games will be filmed in HD. A regular season pass is $19.95 CAD, and can be purchased on the CWHL’s streaming site.

As in the past, all previously aired games will be available in the archive to watch for free. Additionally, all Calgary home games that are not streamed will have an audio-only stream available on the streaming site as well.

This weekend’s streaming games are:

  • Boston Blades @ Toronto Furies, Saturday, October 17th at 4:30 PM CT / 5:30 PM ET
  • Brampton Thunder @ Les Canadiennes, Sunday, October 18th, at 12:30 PM CT / 1:30 PM ET

Weekly News: Shannon Szabados, Kendra Broad, and more

“The biggest thing that we’re looking for, what Dani (Rylan, league founder and commissioner) likes to say is: ‘we want to have 72 stars in this league,’” said the representative. “We want to have every player in this league be a big deal. The best way to do that is for everybody to know them and care about them and have information on them.”

“I knew I had to come here (to Western) to finish my fifth year of eligibility,” she said. Not that it was easy to walk away from the prospect of going pro. “Even though it’s not a lot of money… it was kind of hard to turn that down,” she said.

On top of the talented draft class, Jordanna Peroff, who was acquired Friday from Toronto where she won the 2014 Clarkson Cup, was back with several McGill teammates including Charline Labonte, team captain Cathy Chartrand, Ann-Sophie Bettez, Carly Hill, and others.

“As a team, we need to become stronger defensively and offer our goaltenders more support,” said General Manager, Rebecca Michael. “Up front, we need to start producing more throughout all four lines and not solely depending on our top players.”

“I’m pretty confident either way I’ll get a good amount of ice time, but definitely I’d like to play a little bit of a bigger role this year with a year of experience,” Szabados told The Canadian Press. “I’m a lot more confident going into this season with how I played last year.”

The Beauts don’t have as much veteran experience as the other NWHL teams, but look for the team to develop into one of the fastest and possibly one of the highest-scoring teams in the league.

  • Need to find a NWHL team to cheer for? Taylor Clark is running a series previewing each NWHL team and their facilities over on Along the Boards. So far she’s done the Buffalo Beauts and the Boston Pride.

CWHL Rebranding & New Events

With the flurry of information out there about potential rebranding of some CWHL teams I felt it was time to look into this a bit deeper. The Toronto Furies have been on the block for an actual team logo for quite some time now. So will this be the year?

According to CWHL Director of Marketing & Communications, it will be. “The CWHL is proud to have called the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs a partner for the past three years. This summer the League and the Team have worked closely with Maple Leafs on a branding project for the Furies. The results of this initiative will be announced before the regular season gets underway.”

From what I can gather, the Furies will get a new logo and an updated jersey as a result. It will not doubt be a great improvement and give the team a much greater brand identity as a result. A couple seasons ago, the Furies did have an unofficial logo; however I have not been able to track down the image.

Moving on to the Brampton Thunder, who will also be getting a “new” logo this season and updated jerseys. “Last season the League soft-launched a new logo for the Thunder, which, this season, will be married with new uniforms for a complete visual rebrand of the team.” What does this logo look like and will the color scheme be changing, you may be thinking in your head. This image comes directly from the CWHL website.

a possible new brampton logo? logo is a thundercloud behind the word "thunder", with a lightning bolt for the N. Colors are navy and grey.

It appears that the Thunder will be rebranding to a blue and grey color template with the logo pictured here. This will be a great improvement for a team in need of a brand identity to sell in the large Toronto market.

Along with the new logo, colors and jersey the Thunder will be moving their home dates to Brampton Centennial Arena and we are told that more details regarding this will be announced shortly.

There has also been a great deal of rumors surrounding the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and the potential changing of the name, specifically the “Canadian” reference. In response to these rumors, “We don’t, as you are aware, respond to rumors. However, it is common knowledge that the CWHL has been exploring a name change for the last few seasons, in order to better reflect the truly international composition of our League. For the past five years the CWHL has offered the best American players the opportunity to compete at the highest level at home in Boston.  With the league’s recent announcement that it is exploring further expansion in the US market, the prospect of a name change remains front of mind.”

There are three additional things to look forward to for all CWHL fans. First the CWHL will be expanding its relationship with the You Can Play Project, “In 2012, the CWHL was the first professional sports league to partner with the You Can Play Project and continues to be a proud supporter of LGBT rights. In 2016 we will hold our first Pride games in conjunction with You Can Play and other community LGBT organizations.  More details in these games will follow in the weeks ahead. 

The other two things to look forward to are 2016 All Star Game and a new merchandise partnership, “The league will also announce its plans for the 2nd CWHL All Star Game. Lastly, we have a big announcement on the horizon related to our new merchandise partnership.”

Clearly it has been a very busy off-season for the CWHL, with many initiatives on the go. Lots of excitement will be had by the varying level of rebranding that the Brampton Thunder, Toronto Furies and Montreal are undergoing.

 

 

2015 CWHL Draft Preview: Time to Restock The Cupboards

Where and When:

The Draft is this Sunday, August 23rd, 2015. We expect to see things kick off at 3PM eastern.

To follow along, check out the CWHL’s Draft Live Tracker, or follow along on Twitter:

If you’re a Periscope user, I’d suggest following Krista Patronick, the Blades’ GM. She’s said a couple of times that she’s going to try to stream portions of the Draft on Periscope.

The teams will pick in reverse-order of how they ended the season– so, Brampton first, then Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Boston. Familiar so far, right? So, the trick comes that each player, when she registers for the draft, has to provide the geographic area where she is willing to play– Calgary, Montreal, Boston, or Toronto (and thus either the Furies or the Thunder). She can pick as many areas or as few as she wants. The Boston GM can only pick players who are willing to play in Boston, etc.

The Picks

To register for the Draft, players must have graduated from college, and neither have ever signed with a CWHL club, or be committed to another league. You can check out the entire draft pool after the league has posted it– it’s going to be up on their site some time today.

Some of the most high-profile and notable players in this year’s draft include Marie Philip-Poulin, Hayley Wickenheiser, Brianne Jenner, Elizabeth Tremblay, and Katia Clement-Heydra.

Marie-Philip Poulin

Marie-Philip Poulin is notable because she has played in the CWHL before. When she was 16, Poulin played for the Montreal Stars during the 2007/08 season, and in fact was named Rookie of the Year, before going on to win the Clarkson Cup with Montreal in 2008/09. Poulin has been very open about the fact that she has only declared Montreal as the area she’s willing to play in, so expect to see her go to the Stars again. I’ve also been told by the CWHL that Poulin would be eligible again for the Rookie of the Year award, as it is her first drafted year.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Poulin is a great player, and a huge asset for Montreal to pick up. Poulin had 181 points in 111 career games with the Terriers, and held the captaincy as well in her senior year. She’s been nominated for the Patty Kaz twice, and was a top-3 finalist in 2015, her senior year. When she graduated, she left BU as the all-time leader in goals (81), assists (100) and points (181). Aside from her college career, Poulin has been rather prominent on the international stage for Canada. She’s won Olympic gold twice, in 2010 and 2014, as well as gold at 2012 Women’s Worlds. She has the unique distinction of being the only player to have scored the game-winning goal in every Olympic gold medal game that she’s been in, earning her the nickname of “Noted US Dream Ruiner” among several Watch This writers. She’s a great two-way, defensive forward with the confidence and skill to also make big moves on her own, and one who makes every player she plays with better and more cohesive.

Hayley Wickenheiser

Wick is a legend, and rightfully so. Hayley Wickenheiser is a 5-time Winter Olympic medalist who has been on Canada’s National Team since she was 15, and has the Order of Canada. She’s also represented Canada at the Summer Olympics once, for softball. She got silver at Nagano in 1998, and gold in 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014. She captained the Canadian National Team starting in 2006 after Cassie Campbell retired, up until right before the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She was named the tournaments’ most valuable player in the 2002 and 2006 Olympics.

She also made history as the first female skater to play professional men’s hockey. In 2003, she got her first point with Kirkkonummen Salamat of the Finnish second division men’s professional league. Wickenheiser also played in Eskilstuna, Sweden with a men’s professional division-one hockey team for the 08-09 season. She was also offered an invitation to the Philadelphia Flyer’s rookie camp in 1998.

Wickenheiser has said that she has only listed Calgary as a geographic location she’s willing to go to, so expect to see her in an Inferno jersey.

Brianne Jenner

Brianne Jenner is an Olympic gold medalist (2014, with Canada), and a graduate of Cornell, where she played all four years. She put up 229 points in a 129 game career with the Big Red, 93 goals and 136 assists. She’s a beast. I’d expect to see her in the top forwards in the CWHL next season. She’s going to grad school in Calgary, so expect to see her on the Inferno.

Team Drafts

Brampton Thunder

Brampton. Oh Brampton.

Brampton desperately needs some forwards who can keep up with Jamie Lee Rattray, Jess Jones, and Laura Fortino. The three of them had about 40% of the team’s points put together last season, which isn’t really a great sign.

They’ve had a rough time in net, as well. Liz Knox put up a .888 save percentage for them in 11 games, and Erica Howe, who started 13 games, put up a .896 sv%, which is not at all what I’ve been used to seeing from her when she was at Clarkson or on Team Canada. Sonja van der Bliek was dealing with injury last season, but hasn’t been starter material in the past either. I wouldn’t expect to see Howe back for Brampton– she was at the Buffalo Beaut’s try out camp, and while she hasn’t signed with the NWHL, it does mean that she’s likely been released from the CWHL (possibly with a one year league suspension if she didn’t ask to get released before she tried out).

Defense has been a particularly rough spot for Brampton– I feel like a lot of it has been a coaching / style mismatch with their goaltenders rather than necessarily their players, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brampton go for defenders in the draft.

Toronto Furies

Well, first off, Toronto is not losing Jenelle Kohanchuk! If they’ll lose anyone else from last year is, as always, kind of crapshoot to predict.

That said, Toronto could stand to pick up some depth scoring in the draft, and in generally, really needs to work on defense, and their away game. Their team save percentage was the second lowest in the league, and there’s a noticeable down-tick in their stats on the road. So, what are they going to do in the draft? It’s always hard to predict in the CWHL, as it’s hard to know what holes the team will be trying to fill, but as always, a good bet is forward depth and defense.

Montreal Stars

This might be a somewhat unpopular opinion, but I really don’t think Montreal needs Poulin to win the Clarkson Cup this year. I think they need depth scoring and to pull things together on defense. Montreal finished in a very close top three teams last year, and they have some rockstar talent already in Ann-Sophie Bettez, Caroline Ouellette, and Noémie Marin. While I think you’d have to be downright silly to turn down Poulin, I think the problem facing this team is spreading out the scoring from two or three hot players into depth, and not making Catherine Herron or Charline Labonté save your bacon all the time on defense.

That said, I’m really looking forward to seeing Poulin play with this team– it could be amazing.

Calgary Inferno

Calgary did a big rebuild last year, rebuilding their team to be fast and deadly on the front end. I’d bet Calgary continues in this line, but hopefully picking up some more defense and some depth scoring. This is also a team that’s had good but not outstanding goaltending– I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to pick up a goaltender, depending on who is available in the draft (or via a trade…?).

With Irwin’s health in question for this next season, that may be the place that Wickenheiser is expected to slide in, as another experienced top goal-scorer for the team. If Wick isn’t enough, Jenner is certainly going to add fire power.

Remember, Calgary also has a new coach this year– Scott Reid, the former assistant coach, replaced Kevin Haller, who was released toward the end of last season. Meaghan Mikkelson-Reid isn’t currently listed as an assistant coach, which she was last year. Several CWHL announcements around the Cup Tour mentioned Mikkelson-Reid as a player for Calgary– perhaps, post-baby, we’ll see her return to the ice as a player?

Boston Blades

Boston’s a bit of a gutted team right now, having lost almost all their team to the NWHL. If you look at last year’s roster, only eight players haven’t signed with the NWHL. Of those eight, the Blades are likely to lose a couple more. While I’d expect Tara Watchorn and Genevieve Lacasse to stay with the CWHL, both players were in the US to finish up grad school. With that done, I’d expect them to move to another CWHL team in Canada– I’m hearing possibly Calgary, which would make the Inferno a truely terrifying team to face. Jenny Potter only played six games with the Blades last season, and was named the head coach at Ohio State in April, so I’d be surprised if she sticks around.

Aside from the visible blow of losing serious high-end talent like Knight, Decker, Bellamy, and Duggan, one of the things that has made the Blades so much fun to watch and such a steam roller of a team has been their depth. The Blades have a new GM in Krista Patronick, a new coach in Brian McCloskey, a new arena, and essentially an entirely new roster. While the geographic limitations on player selection somewhat blunts the edge of this, the Blades have the last pick in the draft as well. It’s going to be an interesting season to watch the Blades.

Quick Weekend Recap: Montreal Beats Toronto, Blades Beat Brampton, Toronto locks Clarkson Cup Slot

Sorry for the radio silence! Elena and I have both been taken out by wicked sinus infections at the same time which tends to lead to nothing getting done. 🙂 We’re both (hopefully, knock on wood) finally on the mend though. This roundup is going to be a quick one, however.

Okay, so this past weekend was exciting! The Toronto Furies visited Montreal, where they played the Stars twice. They lost both games, Saturday’s game 1-6, and Sunday’s game 1-5.

The Brampton Thunder visited Boston, and also lost both of their games. Saturday’s game was lost to the Blades 2-6, but Boston shut out Brampton 0-4 on Sunday.

With Brampton’s losses this weekend, Toronto locked the final Clarkson Cup slot! So we now have our four teams- Boston, Montreal, Calgary, and Toronto! We don’t have the final seeding yet, and the top three are currently very close in the standings.

For more in-depth coverage on the Brampton-Boston series this past weekend, check out Zoë’s coverage over at Stanley Cup of Chowder!

Weekend Preview: Boston Blades @ Calgary Inferno, Brampton Thunder & Toronto Furies fight for 4th spot

We’ve got a full weekend here, as we race toward the end of the season. The Calgary Inferno, the Boston Blades, and the Montreal Stars have all clinched a spot in the Clarkson Cup, but the fourth spot is up in the air between Toronto and Brampton. They play each other this weekend, so expect that to be an interesting match to watch!

Interim Head Coach Scott Reid and Assistant Coach Meaghan Mikkleson-Reid [Calgary Inferno/CWHL]
In other news, the Calgary Inferno, who have been far and away leading the league, have released Kevin Haller, their Head Coach. It’s kind of a surprise, as the team has been doing so well, and they’re looking at the Clarkson Cup so soon. He will be replaced in the interim by former Assistant Coach Scott Reid, and Meaghan Mikkleson-Reid will remain on as Assistant Coach.

[Jess Desjardins/CWHL]
[Jess Desjardins/CWHL]

Boston Blades @ Calgary Inferno

  • Friday February 13th, 2015 at 6:30 PM CDT Streamed
  • Saturday February 14th, 2015 at 6:30 PM CDT
  • Sunday, February 15th, 2015 at 8:00 AM CDT

If we took the seeding for the Clarkson Cup today, Boston would play Montreal, and Calgary play Toronto. This weekend’s series could easily be a Clarkson Cup Final game preview.

It’s also going to be a bit of an injury watch game, I think– Hilary Knight (Boston) was wearing a walking boot pretty recently, and Haley Irwin (Calgary) has missed about a month of games now. Jessica Campbell (Calgary) also missed last week’s games due to injury according to our sources. That’s two of Calgary’s top five points scorers out with injury, so I’ll be really interested in seeing who’s playing this weekend. I only wish the CWHL provided time on ice too.

Of the three games these two teams have played so far, Boston’s won (although by a close margin) two of the three– with two very fast, high octane teams looking to make their mark, this weekend’s games look to be very exciting.

[CWHL]

Toronto Furies @ Brampton Thunder

  • Saturday February 14th, 2015 at 6:30 PM CDT Streamed
  • Sunday February 15th, 2015 at 1:05 PM CDT

Like we said at the top, these two are playing for entrance to the Clarkson Cup. Last year’s Clarkson Cup champion, the Toronto Furies currently have 16 points, while Brampton has 12.

CWHL Weekend Recap: Calgary Sweeps Toronto, Boston Crushes Brampton

Calgary Inferno Sweep Toronto Furies

(Photo from Dave Holland/CWHL)

The Calgary Inferno smoked the Toronto Furies this weekend, increasing their lead in the league standings to a solid 22 points in 14 games, 5 points more than the second place Boston Blades.

Continue reading CWHL Weekend Recap: Calgary Sweeps Toronto, Boston Crushes Brampton