Montreal claims Secret Cup with 4-2 win over Toronto, Poulin scores game-winner

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CALGARY — Marie-Philip Poulin scored the third-period game-winner for Montreal in Sunday's 4-2 win over Toronto to claim the Secret Cup.

Poulin, the captain of the Canadian women's hockey team, also had two assists for a three-point outing.

Jesse Eldridge had a goal and an assist, Catherine Dubois also scored and Sarah Lefort added an empty-net goal for Montreal. Goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens made 19 saves in the win.

Sarah Nurse had a goal and an assist and Brianne Jenner also scored for Toronto. Shea Tiley had 25 saves in the loss.

Sixty Canadian players on three teams from Toronto, Montreal and Calgary played a double round-robin in both the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex on the Tsuu'tina Nation and the Saddledome.

Montreal (3-1-0) and Toronto (2-2-0) advanced to Sunday's championship game at the Saddledome. Calgary finished 1-3-0.

Montreal and Toronto went 1-1 against each other in the round robin with the former winning 6-1 to open the tournament, and Toronto pulling out a 4-3 win on Thursday.

Poulin led the Professional Women's Hockey Player's Association Secret Cup in scoring with five goals and six assists in five games.

Forty-eight participants had played on a national women's team at some point in their careers and 21 were among 28 invited to congregate in Calgary in July to try out for Canada's 2022 Olympic team.

The PWHPA rose from the collapse of the Canadian Women's Hockey League folding two years ago.

The goal of the movement, which includes Canadian and U.S. national team stars, is a sustainable women's professional league that provides the competitive supports the men's pros get, and a living wage.

The PWHPA held a series of showcase tournaments and games in 2019-20 on both sides of the border under the banner of the Dream Gap Tour to garner support for their cause.

The cancellation of both the 2020 and 2021 women's world hockey championship in Nova Scotia because of COVID-19, plus pandemic restrictions across Canada barring Dream Gap Tour events in 2020-21, created a women's hockey desert for the country's top players.

The Secret Cup offered the first elite women's hockey games in Canada since a PWHPA tournament in Toronto in January 2020.

Montreal's Bauer was able to skate together as a group this winter more than Toronto's Sonnet and Calgary's Scotiabank.

Because Montreal's group included 17 players in the national women's hockey team pool, Bauer obtained exemptions from the Quebec government to practise with more regularity than Toronto and Calgary.

Montreal also had a day of rest heading into Sunday's final. Toronto played its second game in as many days following a 3-2 loss to Calgary on Saturday.

The score was tied 2-2 heading into the third.

Toronto didn't produce a go-ahead goal out of a pair of power-play chances before Poulin made it 3-2 at 14:28. Eldridge gathered her own rebound and from the mid-boards fed Poulin for the one-timer.

After a goal-free first period, Montreal's Eldridge scored the game's first goal, batting a second rebound past Tiley's outstretched pad at 4:43 of the second.

Montreal led 2-0 on a Dubois goal at 11:29. The puck squirted out to Dubois during a goal-mouth scramble. She had time to go backhand to forehand over a sprawling Tiley.

Toronto's Nurse halved the deficit 18 seconds later. Nurse's shot from the high slot deflected off Desbiens' blocker and over the goaltender's head into the net.

Jenner pulled Toronto even with 23 seconds remaining in the second period. Nurse won the offensive-zone draw to send the puck back to Jenner, who used the screen to beat Desbiens far side.

Desbiens foiled a pair of two-on-one chances involving Natalie Spooner and Loren Gabel in the opening period.

Alberta health authorities approved PWHPA's pandemic protocols adopted from Hockey Canada's for this year's world junior men's hockey championship in Edmonton.

Sportsnet carried the final three games and streamed all seven.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2021.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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