10 Players to Watch for at 2013 Clarkson Cup

Mark StaffieriContributor IIMarch 13, 2013

10 Players to Watch for at 2013 Clarkson Cup

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    The fifth annual Clarkson Cup brings with it many opportunities for history to be made. While the Montreal Stars look to become the first franchise to win three Clarkson Cups three straight season, the parity in the league only guarantees that it will be a hard-fought championship win.

    While Brampton was the most penalized team league, the trio of Gillian Apps, Lori Dupuis and Jayna Hefford is capable of leading the squad to its third finals appearance in four years.

    Along with an infusion of new blood, featuring Laura McIntosh, Bailey Bram and Vicki Bendus, the black and red are not a pushover. As a rookie, McIntosh finished in the Top 10 in the CWHL scoring race.

    Natalie Spooner leads a revamped Toronto Furies offense. Along with fellow rookies Rebecca Johnston and Jennifer Wakefield, the three are eager to bring the city of Toronto its first hockey championship since the Toronto Marlboros claimed the Memorial Cup in 1975.

    As one of the CWHL leaders in goals scored, Spooner is the engine of the Furies offense. Along with Johnston and Spooner, the trio combined for over 35 combined goals. Complemented by Mallory Deluce (the Furies leading scorer in 2011-12), the blue and white are capable of an upset.

    Having won their first regular season title in CWHL history, the Boston Blades enter the season with tremendous momentum. Genevieve Lacasse sported a remarkable 13-1-0 record as the Blades goals against average was the finest in the league.

    Despite Kelli Stack being lost for the season, the black and gold will rely strongly on third overall draft pick Hilary Knight to fill the gap. The leading scorer among American born players this season, Knight accumulated 32 points on the strength of 17 goals and 15 assists.

    Entering the tournament as the two-time defending Clarkson Cup champions, Montreal has a skating target on its back, as The Stars stand are the team to beat. With the retirement of three leaders in the offseason (Nathalie Dery, Stephanie Denino and Kelly Sudia), the rookies on the squad may be unprepared for the pressure of winning the Clarkson.

Honorable Mention: Cathy Chartrand, Montreal

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    The leading scorer among defenders in the CWHL, Cathy Chartrand had a sensational first season in the CWHL. A remarkable rookie, the former member of the Canadian National Team brings with her a wealth of experience.

    Having won gold medals at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport level, the Air Canada Cup, the Four Nations Cup, and the Winter Universiade, her presence on the ice should have great impact for a Montreal Stars squad looking to gain their third consecutive Clarkson Cup.  

10: Laura McIntosh, Brampton

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    One of the most underrated players in the entire league, McIntosh has quietly put together a remarkable season in which she has become an elite scorer. As the all-time scoring leader in Ohio State Buckeyes history, she has adapted to the CWHL level of play.

    A tremendous playmaker and one of the league leaders in assists, McIntosh brings a stable presence to the ice. While Brampton has endured penalty problems all season, a more disciplined style of play in the postseason will only enhance the abilities of McIntosh to make things happen on offense.

9: Julie Chu, Montreal

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    Of all the players gracing the ice, none have had as big an impact on the history of the coveted Clarkson Cup as Julie Chu. Her first brush in the nascent history of the events was as a member of the first American team to have won the Cup, the 2010 Minnesota Whitecaps.

    One year later, she became the first player to win the Cup with two different teams (Minnesota and Montreal). In addition, she became the first ever player to claim the title in three consecutive seasons last year.

    As the Montreal Stars look to claim their third consecutive Clarkson Cup (which would make four in a row for the accomplished Chu), there is no question that she will be a big factor in helping them reach that milestone.

8: Molly Schaus, Boston

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    Compiling one half of the top goaltending corps in the CWHL, Schaus will be a key factor in giving the Blades an opportunity to claim their first Clarkson in franchise history.

    While Genevieve Lacasse will be the likely starter, the presence of Schaus will be crucial in the round robin to provide Lacasse with rest when needed. Having already competed at the Clarkson in 2012, Schaus brings the experience needed to provide a solid goaltending performance for the black and gold.

7: Natalie Spooner, Toronto

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    The leading scorer for the Toronto Furies during the 2012-13 CWHL season, Spooner is the franchise. As a member of the Canadian national team, her star is only rising.

    While the Furies lack the experience, Spooner is a game changer whose presence makes Toronto competitive in any contest. One of the top scorers during the regular season, opposing goaltenders must bring their A-game.

6: Ann-Sophie Bettez, Montreal

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    As one of the top-five scorers in the league, Bettez takes a lot of pressure off Meghan Agosta-Marciano to make things happen. It would come as no surprise if she was somehow involved in the Cup winning goal. She finished her season as the runner-up for the Angela James Bowl and the CWHL Rookie scoring champion.

    With a league-best 14 game point scoring streak during the regular season, Bettez is a remarkable athlete who adds a new dimension to Montreal’s offense. The CWHL leader in plus-minus rating, her presence on the ice is a great benefit to the two-time defending Clarkson Cup champions.

5: Caroline Ouellette, Montreal

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    One of only five Montreal Stars members from the first ever Clarkson Cup championship team (along with Lisa-Marie Breton, Jenny Lavigne, Noemie Marin, Kim St. Pierre) still remaining, her veteran presence is important for a team looking to claim their fourth Cup in franchise history.

    While the 2012 CWHL Draft brought new faces to the franchise (Ann-Sophie Bettez, Charline Labonte, Marieve Provost, Carolyne Prevost), the veteran leadership will be a key indicator of how well Montreal performs in the postseason.

4: Genevieve Lacasse, Boston

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    As the 2012-13 CWHL goaltending champion, Lacasse has emerged as one of the league’s newest stars. While the Blades will be without offensive leader Kelli Stack due to injury, Lacasse is a solid enough goaltender to steal a game away.

    The heart of Boston’s strength is their defense and Lacasse is a key component there. Any opportunity to upend the Montreal Stars dynasty will come through Lacasse.

3: Hilary Knight, Boston

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    With Kelli Stack out for the remainder of the season, Hilary Knight has become the spark plug by which the Boston Blades offensive machine runs. The leading scorer among all American born players during the 2012-13 CWHL season, Knight was an integral part of the Blades offense.

    Although the Blades rely on a strong defensive game to claim victory, the ability of Knight to produce on offense will determine the success of their postseason run.

2: Jayna Hefford, Brampton

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    An emotional favorite heading into the Clarkson Cup, Hefford is the greatest player to have never won the coveted title. While the 36 year old looks like she could easily play another decade, the pressure to win the Cup will only build over time.

    While Hefford is the heart of the Brampton franchise, a youth movement may be the factor in making the team competitive. As the team captain, Hefford is the catalyst on offense. However, the abilities of her younger teammates to handle the pressures of the postseason will determine if she can finally claim the Cup.

1: Meghan Agosta-Marciano, Montreal

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    The leading scorer in the CWHL, Agosta-Marciano is the league’s premier superstar. She became the first player in CWHL history to win the Angela James Bowl in back-to-back seasons. As the Most Outstanding Player at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, expectations will only continue to rise for the prodigious player.

    With the Montreal Stars looking to claim their third consecutive Clarkson Cup, a superlative scoring performance from Agosta-Marciano will be essential to any success. As the Stars boast other offensive weapons in Ann-Sophie Bettez, Emmanuelle Blais and Caroline Ouellette, Agosta-Marciano should be capable of competing at her best.