Record: 8-14-2, 23 points
Final Standings: 6th overall (of 7)
Playoffs: Did not qualify
Ownership: BTM Partners
Head Coach: Peter Smith
General Manager: Kevin Raphaël
Leading Scorer: Jade Downie-Landry – 23 points (10G, 13A in 24 games)
Top Goalie: Tricia Deguire, 5-9-0, .918 sv% and 2.59 GAA
The Force didn't have the strongest introductory season in the PHF, but the team did feature a few standout players and helped introduce the league throughout the province of Quebec. The team's barnstorming tour, combined with their regular road game schedule, saw the Force play at 14 different rinks over the course of the season. Several of their "home rinks" put on a great show, with various promotional and visual elements to make the games extra special – pieces we don't always see in women's hockey.
On the ice, over the course of the season, they never quite seemed to catch their stride; they were never able to string together a pair of wins! The season was littered with wins followed by losses, or little patches where they'd lose three or even four in a row. It seemed difficult to build momentum; where they won the first game of a weekend series, they fell short in the second game. When they won the second game instead, it didn't translate to the following weekend. It was undoubtedly frustrating to watch.
The Force were a nice mix of seasoned professionals and rookies. Ann-Sophie Bettez was, unsurprisingly, also an offensive force (no pun intended). Alexandra Labelle and Samantha Isbell, who both made the jump from the PWHPA, were also two of the top players in Montreal.
Jade Downie-Landry, who averaged over a point per game in her USports career, translated well to the professional game. She not only led the team in points, but also won more than half of her faceoffs. Her former McGill teammate, Tricia Deguire, was also a nice addition to the Force and proved to be their best goaltender as the season went on, playing over 900 minutes.
Despite finishing second-last in the league, the Force had the best penalty kill, successful 88 percent of the time. Their power play, on the flip side, was one of the worst – tied with Buffalo, at just 13 percent. Montreal also scored an average of 2.3 goals per game, second-fewest of the PHF teams, so they'll likely look to boost their offense going forward.
As I said above, the Force really seemed to struggle to get into any sort of comfortable stride. The "home ice advantage" around Quebec didn't really seem to do them any good. In fact, the team's records at home and on the road were identical: 4-7-1.
Many of the Force's games were very close this season, with more than half (14) decided by just one goal. Ten of their 16 losses came by a one-goal margin, so even if they didn't necessarily win the game, they kept it close most of the time.
The Force's season record against each PHF team:
- vs. Boston: 1-3-0 (outscored 12-4)
- vs. Buffalo: 2-2-0 (outscored 14-12)
- vs. Connecticut: 2-2-0 (outscored 14-12)
- vs. Metropolitan: 1-2-1 (outscored 12-11)
- vs. Minnesota: 1-3-0 (outscored 13-9)
- vs. Toronto: 1-2-1 (tied opp. in goals 8-8)
While the barnstorming tour made sense for the Force's inaugural season, there's something to be said for having a genuine home rink, a permanent home with a permanent locker room. That sort of stability could help the Force going into their second season. (Assuming they don't continue the barnstorming tour, that is – and I would expect that they would not.)
There is a clear appetite for professional women's hockey in Quebec, as evidenced by multiple packed arenas to see the Force and their opponents. There are certainly pros and cons to both sides of the aisle, but having the team settle into one arena for the entire season would allow for things like a permanent locker room, and for season ticket holders and to build a concentrated, dedicated fanbase.
With seemingly every player on a one-year contract last season, free agency is wide open for the Force. Realistically, I would expect many of their players to return, with perhaps a few newcomers scattered across the roster. This would provide some stability for the team heading into its second season.
As the newest expansion franchise in the PHF, it's understandable – and almost expected – that there may be a period of adjustment. Kevin Raphaël, the team's president and general manager, is a long-time enthusiastic supporter of women's hockey. His passion is evident to anyone who speaks to him, and having someone like that in charge should spell a promising future for the organization.
(Photo: Mike Hetzel/Buffalo Beauts)