SPORTS

Agosta powers potent Montreal Stars offence heading into Clarkson Cup

03/21/2012 03:07 EDT | Updated 05/21/2012 05:12 EDT
The Montreal Stars open defence of the Clarkson Cup with a new weapon in their arsenal.

Meghan Agosta had a record-setting rookie season for the Stars, recording 80 points, a single-season high in the Canadian Women's Hockey League. The two-time Canadian Olympian had 41 goals and 39 assists in 27 games.

"It seems like her speed was far and beyond everyone else in the league," Stars teammate Caroline Ouellette said. "I don't know how many breakaways she'd had this season just because of her dangerous speed."

It was Ouellette's CWHL record of 71 points that Agosta broke.

"It's not about breaking records," Agosta said. "It's not about who scores or who gets the assists. It's about winning. For us, we set a goal at the beginning of the season and that's to win the Clarkson Cup."

Agosta was named the most valuable player of the 2010 Olympic women's hockey tournament. The 25-year-old from Ruthven, Ont., set a tournament scoring record with nine goals and six assists in five games.

The Clarkson Cup, commissioned and donated by Canada's former governor general Adrienne Clarkson, has been handed to the Stars two of the last three years.

Montreal, the Boston Blades, Brampton HC and the Toronto Furies will contest the Cup starting Thursday at the Gale Centre in Niagara Falls, Ont. Montreal takes on Toronto followed by the Blades against Brampton to open the tournament.

Clarkson will hand the trophy to the winning team after Sunday's championship game.

Montreal is explosive on offence. Agosta, Ouellette (66 points) and Vanessa Davidson (49) rank first to third in CWHL scoring. Catherine Ward leads all CWHL defencemen with 31 points. The Stars averaged almost six goals per game this season with a total of 160. Boston was second with 107.

"We've had games where we scored a lot of goals," Ouellette said. "It's been a focus for us to try and be better defensively because in championship games we probably won't be able to score as many goals as we usually do."

The Boston Blades joined the CWHL this year. The Blades boast several players from the U.S. national team, including Kelli Stack, Gigi Marvin and Erika Lawler.

American defenceman Molly Engstrom plays for Brampton, however, and counts among her teammates Canadian Olympians Jayna Hefford, Cherie Piper and Gillian Apps. U.S. veteran Julie Chu plays with Ouellette and Agosta on the Stars.

The Furies have national team defenceman Tessa Bonhomme on their roster. Bonhomme won the most recent instalment of Battle of the Blades, a CBC reality figure skating show, with partner David Pelletier.

Ouellette says Boston has given her Stars all kinds of trouble this season and points out Brampton has the momentum of a strong second half to the season.

The CWHL is a six-team circuit that also includes Burlington and an Alberta-based squad. The league announced almost a year ago that the Western Women's Hockey League was dissolving and would eventually be absorbed by the CWHL.

The Minnesota Whitecaps, the 2010 Clarkson Cup champion, disagree and say they were unfairly shut out by the CWHL this season. The Whitecaps and Manitoba Maple Leafs continued to operate this season as a two-team league.

The WWHL applied to put a team in the metro Toronto area, but the Ontario Women's Hockey Association did not approve the proposal.

The players see the Clarkson Cup as a stabilizing force in the women's hockey leagues, which have been in constant flux over the last decade.

"It's only going to be a matter of time until the league is where we want it to be," Agosta said. "Everybody has to start somewhere. By a lot of people spending a lot of time and working real hard, it's a step in the right direction."

A college star during her four years at Mercyhurst, it was an adjustment for Agosta not to have every hour of her day filled up with classes, practices, games and off-ice workouts.

"It was such a big difference leaving college and coming into a league like this," she said. "I was very fortunate coming to Montreal.

"You train when you want to train, the time that you choose every day. I like it a lot better that way rather than having something so structured, 'OK you have to be here at this time.'"

Agosta now works hockey around setting up her first summer hockey school, running a foundation raising money for children to play hockey and planning a September wedding with Marco Marciano, the national team's video coach at the 2010 Games.

Several players in the Clarkson Cup will also participate in the women's world championship April 8-14 in Burlington, Vt. Agosta and Ouellette are among the 29 invited to Canada's selection camp March 26 to April 1 in Ottawa.

The U.S. has beaten Canada for the gold medal in three straight world championships, but Agosta says national allegiances don't factor into the Clarkson Cup. Like the NHL, the players want to win the championship trophy no matter where their teammates are from.

"The CWHL is the league that we Olympic athletes play in, who have graduated from college. Who wouldn't want to win?" she said. "There's a lot of great hockey players in the league who are Olympians and some who haven't made it to that stage yet. That's what makes the hockey great."

MORE:cpSports