Today, Team Sonnet and Team Bauer will meet for the third time in less than a week to determine who lifts the Secret Cup. Team Bauer picked up the win in their first meeting, on May 24, on the strength of a 40-save performance by Ann-Renée Desbiens. Three days later, Team Sonnet held off a comeback after leading 3-0 and came away with a victory thanks to some big saves made by Shea Tiley.
Both games were determined by a single goal.
It’s Toronto against Montréal; Ontario versus Quebec. With bragging rights, a trophy, and cash on the line. What more could you ask for?
A big storyline to watch for in today’s game is what happens on special teams. Entering this game, Team Sonnet has an 8.67 percent success rate on the power play and has given up two shorthanded goals — both to Team Bauer. Team Bauer, on the other hand, comes into today’s game with a 29.41% power play. Sure, we’re looking at a sample size of four games but we shouldn’t be quick to dismiss these numbers because of that.
It’s likely that Team Bauer has had more success on special teams because they’ve had more time to practice together before this showcase in Calgary. Marie-Philip Poulin, Jessie Eldridge, and Emily Clark have all been fantastic on the advantage but another player to watch is elite puck-moving defender Erin Ambrose. Ambrose has four points in four games for Team Bauer, including a power-play goal.
The good news for Team Sonnet is that they picked up a power-play goal in yesterday’s game against Team Scotiabank and, to be frank, they are a lot better than their success rate might lead you to believe. It’s probably hard to feel good about your power play when you score one goal on your first 19 opportunities but this team knows it has talent. With that said, Toronto is probably hoping to settle this at even strength given how things have gone for them on special teams.
Team Sonnet’s Spotlight Player: Victoria Bach
Victoria Bach has been nothing short of Brilliant for Team Sonnet.
Bach has six points — all primary — in four games for Toronto to lead the team in scoring. Her dominance at even strength is one of the main reasons why Team Sonnet finished the group stage with 14 even-strength goals. She had primary points on five of those goals. Remember Brittany Howard’s hatty against team Scotiabank? Bach had the primary assist on all three of Howard’s goals. Oh, and she scored two goals of her own in the group stage.
The bottom line here is that Team Sonnet looks downright electrifying when Bach has the puck on her stick and she’s had the puck on her stick a lot. In her first two games, she led her team in controlled exits (14) and controlled entries (13). Clearly, her value goes well beyond her ability to create offense. Bach is a key cog in Toronto’s transition game and doesn’t get enough credit for her play away from the puck. She’s one of the best forwards in the game and, at 24, her best hockey is still ahead of her.
Bach is dangerous on the rush and dangerous on the power-play. She’s always worth the price of admission.
Team Bauer’s Spotlight Player: Marie-Philip Poulin
Yep, there’s no surprise here. Marie-Philip Poulin is going to be a factor in this game. She’s always a factor. She’s as good as it gets.
Poulin led all skaters in scoring in the Canadian leg of the 2021 PWHPA Secret Dream Gap Tour with eight points in four games. As if that isn’t impressive enough seven of those points were primary and she scored a goal in all four games. So it’s a safe bet she’ll be getting into the box score tonight too.
Team Bauer will need Poulin and fellow veterans Laura Stacey, Jill Saulnier, and Emily Clark to have big games tonight. It’s highly unlikely we’ll see Ann-Sophie Bettez on the ice after the injury she sustained against Team Bauer on May 27. She missed the team’s final game of the group stage on the 28th. It’s not easy to adapt when you lose a player of Bettez’s caliber, especially against a squad with Team Sonnet’s forward depth.
So, Montréal will likely be taking to the ice with two fewer forwards than Team Bauer. That should result in a lot of ice time for Poulin and her line. We’ve already seen her double-shifting in the group stage. I expect we’ll see more of the same tonight with the Canada Secret Cup and a cash prize on the line for her team.
The puck drops on the Championship Final at 4:30 p.m. ET / 1:30 p.m. PT on Sportsnet & SN NOW. Viewers outside of Canada can watch the game streaming free at sportsnet.ca/SDGT.