In its previous incarnation as the Montreal Stars, the franchise now known as Les Canadiennes collaborated on a proud legacy. By featuring a remarkable number of talented players on its world-class roster that once competed for Montreal’s nationally renowned McGill Martlets program, it helped establish the hockey mad city as a focus for the female game. Heading into this season, eight Martlet alumnae, headlined by All-World goaltender Charline Labonte comprise a significant chunk of the roster.
Another Montreal-based university is now staking its claim, beginning to supply elite hockey talent to the proud franchise. Alyssa Sherrard, who finished her Canadian Interuniversity Sport career as the Concordia Stingers leading scorer in her senior season, is leading the way.
This season, the Stingers feature four alumnae on the roster of Les Canadiennes, a significant milestone for the program. Joining Sherrard are the likes of goaltender Jessica Anderson, along with forwards Emilie Bocchia and Audrey Morand. Subsequently, these former Stingers are helping to extend another proud legacy in Canadiennes lore.
Of note, Concordia is also the alma mater of Stars co-founder Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux, who shall serve on the coaching staff of Les Canadiennes during its inaugural season. Having also helped form the CWHL, Breton-Lebreux was a captain for the Stingers during her playing career, leading the program to a CIS national title.
Coincidentally, Breton-Lebreux briefly served as an assistant coach to Les Lawton while Sherrard played there. Taking into account that she shall also be part of Dany Brunet’s coaching staff with Les Canadiennes; she is poised to be a mentor to Sherrard (and the other Stingers alums), who enters her inaugural season of CWHL hockey.
“It is very different from university hockey. It has taken a bit of time to adjust. Being on the ice with them, the game is so much faster. The players are a step faster and it is nice to be on the ice with girls like that, able to play at such a high level.”
For the product of Bathurst, New Brunswick, Sherrard shall be reunited with another key person in her playing career on Les Canadiennes. Although they were rivals at the RSEQ level, Kim Deschenes was a teammate of Sherrard with the Northern Stars Midget AAA club. As teammates, the two led the Northern Stars to an appearance in the 2009 Esso Cup. Deschenes enters her second season with the franchise, having appeared in the 2015 Clarkson Cup finals.
Measuring in at 5’3”, Sherrard, a 2011 RSEQ All-Rookie Team member, is a spitfire, bringing remarkable acceleration and a quick shot, adding key offensive depth to Les Canadiennes. In her senior season at Concordia, the speedy Sherrard displayed several flashes of offensive brilliance that shall benefit her new team. Of note, she would accumulate 13 points, leading all Stingers in scoring. While her final CIS goal took place in a 2-1 loss against RSEQ conference champion McGill on February 7, the final point in her CIS career actually occurred in her final game.
Said game was a February 22 postseason loss to the eventual CIS bronze medalist Montreal Carabins, in which Audrey Morand and Sherrard would be credited with an assist on a goal scored by Tracy-Ann Lavigne. As a side note, her best performance of the season was a two-goal performance in a January 30 road win against the Ottawa Gee-Gees, as one of her goals was a game-winning tally scored on the power play.
Sherrard’s solid efforts throughout the season propelled the Stingers to a solid third place finish in the RSEQ Conference, compiling a winning season of 8-7-5. Among her accomplishments with the program, one of her proudest was competing in the 500th win of legendary head coach Les Lawton’s coaching career, quite possibly one of the safest records in Concordia sporting history.
“Before coming to Concordia, I had done some research. Knowing his history and ability to win, it was exciting to play there. Over his career, he achieved many accomplishments including 500 wins. He won that 500th game while I was there, and it was a nice experience for me.”
Ironically, Les Canadiennes are not the only team in Montreal women’s hockey to have undergone a makeover. Of note, the Stingers have also undergone their own modifications, embracing a freshly minted logo, uniform and even a new coaching tandem, as Mike McGrath and Julie Chu succeed Lawton, who is on medical leave. Although Sherrard’s foray into Montreal CWHL hockey represents a transitional time, she is very excited to be part of such a new and historical phase.
“It really is exciting. Considering that I left Concordia at a time when they were changing their logo, it was bittersweet coming in as well. As this is the first year of Les Canadiennes, it is amazing to be part of history. Especially playing with a group of girls that I have looked up to my whole life.”
As Sherrard hopes to be able to duplicate her offensive abilities with Les Canadiennes, she has no shortage of motivation. With the club looking to capture its fourth Clarkson Cup in franchise history (although its first under the moniker of Les Canadiennes), Sherrard is surrounded by a group of world-class players who contributed to the ascendancy of women’s hockey in Montreal, such as Caroline Ouellette, Charline Labonte and fellow 2015 CWHL Draft pick, Marie-Philip Poulin, whose presence shall certainly inspire Sherrard to be an even better player,
“For sure. To see them on the ice, I am awed. I could sit there the whole time and just watch them play. Their passes are always right on and they make everyone better as players. I am looking forward to playing with them this season.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: David S. Landman