Bailey Bram, Rebecca Johnston key to Inferno’s repeat hopes
After a quiet series against Toronto, Rebecca Johnston and Bailey Bram are critical for Calgary to win back-to-back Clarkson Cups.
The Calgary Inferno and Les Canadiennes de Montreal will compete in the Clarkson Cup Final on Sunday afternoon in a rematch of last year's championship. This year the roles will be reversed, since Calgary comes in as the clear favorite.
While Calgary finished with the best regular-season record in the Canadian Women's Hockey League, Montreal has three players - Marie-Philip Poulin, Ann-Sophie Bettez, and Caroline Ouellette - who each scored over 30 points. All three finished top-five in league scoring and will need to be contained in order for Calgary to repeat. Easier said than done, and the Inferno will find themselves in an offensive showdown if they’re not up to the task.
Although they did not have anyone score over 30 points, Calgary had no slouches on offense. Four players had 20-plus point seasons, but only captain Brianne Jenner and rookie Iya Gavrilova registered multiple points over their three-game series against the Toronto Furies. However, for the Inferno to win back to back Clarkson Cups, Jenner and Gavrilova will need some help.
During Calgary's Clarkson Cup run last year, the 27-year-old had nine points in three games, playing a significant role in the Inferno’s victory. Johnston scored two goals in the final, including the opening goal in their upset 8-3 win over Montreal.
Johnston netted 22 points in the 2016-2017 regular season, finishing third in team scoring. This year's playoffs have been different, though; she had a quiet two games versus Toronto, only putting up one point.
For Calgary to match Montreal's firepower, Johnston’s offensive threat needs to present itself. It will be a welcome sight for the Inferno to see her put together another two-goal performance in the cup final.
In Bram's third season with Calgary, she cemented herself as a staple of their offense with career highs in goals and points. The 26-year-old finished second in team scoring, putting up 24 points in 22 games.
Like Johnston, Bram had a quiet two games against Toronto as she registered no points. Calgary will need more out of their second-leading scorer if they have hopes of repeating.
Defense and solid goaltending were the major contributing factors in Calgary's Clarkson Cup victory last season. This season saw them catapult to the top of the standings and become the odds-on favorites to repeat as champions.
Last season's final saw Montreal's offense go cold, but the rematch could see them break out and they have a trio who could do just that.
Calgary cannot rely just upon Jenner and Gavrilova to be the sole contributing members of the offense. They will need their other 20-plus point scorers in Bram and Johnston to match the offensive threat that Montreal will pose.