Les Canadiennes de Montréal swept the Worcester Blades this weekend, while the Markham Thunder upset the league-leading Calgary Inferno to split their weekend series.
Around the League
- Kim Deschênes played her 100th regular-season game on Sunday, and Ann-Sophie Bettez surpassed Jayna Hefford as the third-highest point-scorer in league history.
- Rebecca Johnston was named Gongshow Gear Player of the Month.
- The league announced the first 23 players named to the All-Star Game rosters: Kacey Bellamy, Halli Krzyzaniak, Rebecca Johnston, Brigette Lacquette, Alex Rigsby, and Blayre Turnbull (CGY); Megan Bozek, Liz Knox, Jocelyne Larocque, Jamie Lee Rattray, and Laura Stacey (MAR); Erin Ambrose, Hilary Knight, Emerance Maschmeyer, Marie-Philip Poulin, Lauriane Rougeau, and Jill Saulnier (MTL); Hanna Bunton, Rachel Llanes, and Jessica Wong (KRS); Mellissa Channell and Natalie Spooner (TOR); and Lauren Williams (WOR).
- The Calgary Inferno announced that Rebecca Johnston will serve as captain after the team had no letters throughout the opening months of the season, during which Blayre Turnbull was called upon to take ceremonial face-offs; Johnston replaces Brianne Jenner, who had worn the C since her rookie year in 2015-16 and will continue to serve as an alternate alongside Turnbull, Brianna Decker, and Zoe Hickel.
- Les Canadiennes de Montréal announced that Caroline Ouellette will serve as head coach for the remainder of the season, joined by Danièle Sauvageau as a mentor-coach; Hockey Canada skills consultant Sébastien Bordeleau will join the team as a skills coach.
- Marie-Soleil Deschênes was named Goalie of the Week.
- The Toronto Furies are holding their annual You Can Play game on December 8.
- The Markham Thunder are hosting a charity skills clinic in partnership with the Grindstone Award Foundation on December 9.
Worcester Blades vs. Les Canadiennes de Montréal
Montreal started off Saturday's game with a bench minor for too many players under a minute in, but quickly got back on track with a goal from Marie-Philip Poulin at 5:47.
Poulin and Worcester defender Lauren Williams collided knee-on-knee early in the second period. Williams left the game favouring her left knee and spent the rest of the weekend on crutches. (Williams has since been named to the All-Star Game, which takes place on January 20; it's not clear whether she'll be able to participate.)
Karell Emard set the tone for the period with a shorthanded breakaway at 1:33. Tracy-Ann Lavigne got the puck out of Montreal's zone through several Blades players and Emard sped past them to pick it up and race in on goal.
"I just saw the opportunity -- the puck bounced, and I was like 'K, I'm gone'," she said, crediting her teammates for creating the chance. "I took whoever's stick was like trying to trip me, whatever, it went flying, and I just focused on the net."
Maude Gélinas tipped in a shot at 13:26 to put Les Canadiennes ahead 3-0 after two.
Emard -- who had no points on the season prior to this game -- added another from a sharp angle at 7:51 of the third, placing a shot in the far corner from the goal line. Poulin followed it up 15 seconds afterwards, prompting the Blades to replace starting netminder Lauren Dahm with Jetta Rackleff. Lauriane Rougeau scored a power-play marker at 14:04, and Meghan Grieves ruined Montreal's shut-out bid 49 seconds later to round out the scoring.
Les Canadiennes were 1-for-4 on the power play and perfect on five penalty kills.
Emerance Maschmeyer made 14 saves on 15 shots. Dahm stopped 39 of 44 through 48:55, while Rackleff turned away 10 of 11 in 11:02 in relief.
Montreal came out strong to start the game on Sunday. Erin Ambrose opened the scoring at 5:29 with a shot from the high slot. Sarah Lefort made it 2-0 with a shot from the circle near the midway point; Emard had gone down in front of the crease and was laying down, attempting to shield her face as Lefort made sure to aim high. Lefort doubled up at 9:59 and Gélinas added another at 10:23, for three goals in a 56-second span. Kim Deschênes scored less than two minutes after that to make it 5-0 after one.
Ann-Sophie Bettez tapped in a power-play goal at 6:09 of the second, and Poulin scored just over halfway through the contest, leading the Blades to pull Mariah Fujimagari in favour of Rackleff, who shut Les Canadiennes out through the remainder of the game.
Montreal was 1-for-3 on the power play and killed its only penalty.
Marie-Soleil Deschênes saved all nine shots faced, making her the first CWHL goalie to begin her career with three consecutive shut-outs.
"It was my first start in Montreal, so it's fun to play in front of my family and to have had a good game like that," said the 24-year-old. "[Low-shooting games are] definitely matches that it's hard to stay concentrated in, but I try to take it one whistle at a time and refocus myself every five minutes. It's really just staying in the game."
Fujimagari allowed seven goals on 25 shots through 33:29, while Rackleff turned away all 21 through 26:31.
Montreal was playing its second series under Caroline Ouellette, who described her promotion to head coach as "unexpected for this year," adding that leading Les Canadiennes was one of her long-term career goals. She said she felt surprised and sad about Dany Brunet's decision to step down, and explained that the coaching situation for the remainder of the year would be a collaboration between various "passionate and well-qualified" coaches, given that she does not intend to renege on her commitments to the Concordia Stingers or the all-girls team she's taking to the Quebec International Pee-Wee Tournament. Danièle Sauvageau, who led Team Canada to Olympic gold in 2002, will serve as a mentor coach and lead the team behind the bench when Ouellette is unavailable.
"We have a great staff -- I've said for years that we have a great organization," Ouellette offered. "We're trying to find the best plan without Dany. It wasn't easy and it's still not easy to know that he's no longer with us, but we need to move forward and find solutions to restore stability to the team"
Players, for their part, seemed excited about the transition, including those who've both played and coached alongside Ouellette for years.
"I love it," said Rougeau. "She always says, 'You're not going to like [after] this honeymoon phase that we're in right now,' and I'm like, 'That phase is gone'. For me it's an opportunity to learn from one of the best. To be able to gain that next step in our development, I think we need somebody of her calibre and expertise to help us reach that next step."
"It's pretty amazing, to be honest," echoed Poulin. "I think sometimes I need to pinch myself when I look back and it's Caro there telling you what to do, what you could do better. Obviously there's nobody else that knows the game better than her and obviously having the chance to play with her and now she's our coach, we couldn't ask for a better coach. She knows the game, she's so passionate, she's going to tell you how it is and she's not going to sugar coat it, which is amazing as a coach. Obviously everyone respects her and we're lucky in Montreal to have her."
Markham Thunder vs. Calgary Inferno
Jenna McParland got things started on Saturday with the only goal of the first period, putting Markham ahead at 7:57.
Teammate Victoria Bach tallied a shorthanded goal to make it 2-0 midway through the second, but Rebecca Leslie got one back for the Inferno at 14:56.
Zoe Hickel tied things up at 4:34 of the third, and the teams went to overtime.
The extra session proved fruitless, leading to a shoot-out. Markham's third shooter, Kristen Barbara, scored the lone goal as Erica Howe stoned all three Calgary attempts.
The Thunder were a flawless 1-for-1 with the extra skater and 3-for-3 on the penalty kill.
Howe made 44 saves on 46 shots through 65 minutes, while Alex Rigsby stopped 27 of 29.
Leslie scored a power-play marker just 1:54 into Sunday's game, but Jamie Lee Rattray evened things up a minute-and-a-half later.
The Inferno took control in the second period, with Rebecca Johnston netting a power-play goal 43 seconds in and Turnbull adding one of her own just 49 seconds after that. Laura Stacey brought Markham within one at 14:49, but Zoe Hickel restored the two-goal advantage 31 seconds later, and Venla Hovi scored shorthanded at 17:33 to make it 5-2.
Goaltender Liz Knox denied Brianne Jenner on a penalty shot halfway through the third period and Laura Fortino scored in the dying minutes, but it was too little, too late and Calgary claimed the rematch, 5-3.
The Inferno were 3-for-5 on the power play and perfect on four penalty kills.
Rigsby turned away 27 of 30 shots, while Knox saved 36 of 41 chances.
Coming Up Next
- Worcester Blades vs. Toronto Furies -- December 8 at 6:00 PM Eastern at Mastercard Centre - Rink 1 (streamed); December 9 at 1:00 PM Eastern at Mastercard Centre - Rink 1 (streamed)
- Calgary Inferno vs. Markham Thunder -- December 8 at 7:30 PM Mountain at Thornhill Community Centre (streamed); December 9 at 12:30 PM Mountain at Thornhill Community Centre.
(Photo credit: Dave Holland/CWHL)