On Sunday afternoon Jamie Lee Rattray and her Markham Thunder teammates will cross sticks with Kunlun Red Star in Toronto in the 2018 Clarkson Cup Final. The 2017-18 season has been quite the odyssey for the Thunder, but Rattray’s exceptional play has been a constant. The MVP candidate’s career year has brought the Thunder within one win of the franchise’s first Clarkson Cup.
Rattray has led the charge for the Thunder’s offense all season long. She put up career bests in goals and assists this season, finishing fourth in the CWHL in scoring with 39 points in 28 games. Rattray kept her foot on the gas in the postseason. Her shorthanded overtime goal against Montreal on March 16 has become an instant classic. It is without a doubt one of the biggest goals in Thunder franchise history.
Jamie Lee Rattray (@ratt26) now has 11 goals in her last 11 games for the @ThunderCWHL. She scored an OT shortie on Friday in Game 1 vs Les Canadiennes and scored an empty netter in Game 2. What an amazing year. #CWHL— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) March 18, 2018
It may be hard to remember now, but the Thunder’s season began on uncertain footing. Sarah Edney, Rebecca Vint, and Jess Jones — who shared honors with Marie-Philip Poulin as the CWHL’s top scorer in 2016-17 — all went south of the border to play for the NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts. The Thunder’s record early in the season reflected the absence of those players; the women in green and black went 3-7-2-0 in October and November.
The Thunder are not the same team they were in the fall. Markham’s roster was bolstered late in the season with the additions of Megan Bozek, Laura Fortino, Laura Stacey, and team captain Jocelyne Larocque. Those big names added fuel to a fire that was sparked by Rattray and the best goaltending duo in professional women’s hockey: Liz Knox and Erica Howe.
“I think the energy is pretty special right now, we’re on a roll,” Rattray told The Ice Garden after Markham wrapped up the regular season in Boston. “It’s been nice to have a boost back in our lineup [with] Jocelyne, Laura, and Laura back from the Olympics — they’re also riding a little bit of a high too after playing at such a high level. It’s been nothing but good energy in our room and we’re just trying to keep it going for as long as we can.”
Saying that the Thunder have been on a roll is something of an understatement. Markham closed out the regular season with an 11-0-2-3 run that continued in the playoffs with a sweep of Les Canadiennes de Montreal in the Clarkson Cup Semifinals. In other words, the Thunder haven’t lost a game in regulation since November 24.
The veteran forward has found a way to take her big year in stride and remain focused on her main goal: winning the Clarkson Cup with the Thunder.
“Your mindset changes as you grow older in the league and figure it out,” Rattray explained to The Ice Garden. “This league is not easy to play in. I think, as a player, I’ve figured out how to be at my best and my teammates have been a big part of that. I’ve learned to play with no cares and I’ve been lucky to have a good team around me. It’s been a good year all around, even at the beginning of the year when we were struggling I think we did a good job of staying together as a group and that’s really what has got us here.”
Regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s Clarkson Cup Final, it’s hard to overstate just how exceptional Rattray’s year has been. Last night she won the CWHL’s Jayna Hefford Trophy — awarded to the MVP as selected by the players. She’s earned every bit of it and then some.