Headlining a new generation of stars for Les Carabins de Montreal, the 2022-23 season provided Audrey-Anne Veillette with a pair of treasured milestones. From wearing the Maple Leaf to appearing in front of a home crowd at the U Sports Nationals, her profile grew exponentially, part of the conversation among the elites of U Sports. Enjoying a landmark season, Veillette, raised in Drummond ville, Quebec, served as the spark plug of the offense for Les Carabins de Montreal. Scoring a superlative 26 goals, leading all players in U Sports, the RSEQ All-Star topped all players in the nation with an astounding five hat tricks and seven game winning goals, respectively.
Starting the season with a five game scoring streak, amassing 10 points, Veillette’s finest performance during said streak took place on October 21, 2022. Facing off versus the defending national champion Concordia Stingers, it marked a statement game for the program. Scoring a hat trick, Veillette found the back of the net twice in the final two minutes of the third period. Providing the heroics in a 4-2 victory, it set an exhilarating tone for the season to follow, establishing Veillette as the finest forward in RSEQ. Additionally, Veillette’s 35 points clinched the RSEQ scoring title, while ranking third in the nation. Trailing only Waterloo’s Leah Herrfort (36) and Maggy Burbidge (47) of the St. Francis Xavier X-Women, both played pivotal roles in a significant career highlight.
Such offensive proficiency placed Veillette on Canada’s radar. Named to the roster for women’s ice hockey at the 2023 Winter Universiade in Lake Placid, New York, Veillette was counted upon to provide offensive punch for a nation looking for its first gold since 2013. Belonging to a roster which featured Burbidge and Herrfort, a pair of Carabins teammates also earned the privilege of wearing the Maple Leaf. Annabel Faubert and Kelly-Ann Nadeau bolstered the blueline, providing Les Carabins with a strong point of pride, the only program to feature three players on the Canadian contingent.
Worth noting, the Winter Universiade represented the third time that Veillette has skated for Canada. Having played twice at the IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championships, Veillette earned silver in 2017, followed by bronze in 2018. As the Winter Universiade provided Veillette with the opportunity to capture the elusive gold medal, it was fitting that she scored the game winning goal in the finals versus Japan. Equally satisfying was the fact that Faubert, who played for Canada at the 2019 edition of the Winter Universiade in a silver medal outcome, gained a gold medal four years in the making.
“It was a great time. Having enjoyed the chance to win this medal with the best university players in Canada was a very beautiful moment.’
Before the start of the Universiade, Veillette departed for Lake Placid on a highly impressive note. A January 8 tilt versus the Bishop’s Gaiters resulted in a scintillating four-goal effort. Defeating the Bishop’s by a 6-2 mark, Veillette found the back of the net in each period. Fittingly, she scored the first and final goals for Les Carabins, spoiling the fans in attendance at CEPSUM with her scoring proficiency. Worth noting, Faubert and Nadeau also earned assists.
Maintaining the hot hand, Canada’s opening game at the Universiade saw two skaters, Veillette and Shae Demale each contribute a goal and an assist in a 4-0 shutout win versus Slovakia. Of note, both finished the season as U Sports All-Canadians. On January 15, another shutout win, prevailing against Japan by a 6-0 tally saw Veillette enjoy her second goal in tournament play.
Emerging as a prime time player in the medal round, Veillette proved essential in Canada’s path to gold. With a semifinal rematch versus Slovakia, the potential for an upset took shape, as Canada trailed 1-0 after the first period. Finding the back of the net, tying the game at 1-apiece, Faubert earned the assist. As Veillette’s goal turned the tide, she would also log an assist on a third period goal by team captain Emmy Fecteau. Taking into account that Fecteau is one of the cornerstones for archrival Concordia, it marked a unique coincidence to play for the same team.
The gold medal game on January 21 proved to be Veillette’s finest hour. Facing off against Japan, a scoreless first period saw the Canadians outshoot their opponents by an impressive 15-3 mark. Grabbing the first lead of the game at the 1:16 mark of the second, it was a lead that would not be relinquished. Placing the puck past Miyuu Masahara, assists were credited to Demale and Herrfort. Also earning an assist on the game’s final goal, serving as glorious bookends to an amazing performance, the theme of coincidence as Elizabeth Mura, a member of the McGill Martlets, scored the goal.
“I am very proud of my performance. I worked very hard and I felt that my efforts paid off. I also had great teammates around me, so it was easy to play with them. I was lucky to be part of this team.”
Upon return from the Winter Universiade, Veillette logged points in the final eight games of the season for Les Carabins. Her best performance involved a brilliant five-point display of offensive wizardry versus the Gaiters. The January 27 contest also ended in a 6-2 final, mirroring the outcome from January 8. Bookending an exceptional month for Veillette, she scored twice in the first period, providing Les Carabins with a 2-0 advantage. Although the Gaiters tied the score in the second, Veillette earned the assist on the game-winning goal, scored by Laurie-Anne Ethier. In the third period, Veillette would complete the hat trick, scoring on Charley Wing at the 1:24 mark of the third. Also assisting on the game’s final goal, also scored by Ethier, she was recognized for her heroics with the U Sports Player of the Week Award on February 1. As a side note, Les Carabins would win seven of the last eight games, clinching a solid second place in the RSEQ Conference.
Equally impressive, the final four games, spanning from February 5-17, resulted in recording at least one goal in each game. Logging the game-winning goal on February 5 versus the Carleton Ravens, she scored twice versus the McGill Martlets to close out the season. With her 25th and 26th goals, Veillette set a new program record for most goals in one season. As a side note, Ethier earned the assist on the record 26th, intertwined in Veillette’s magical year. Prevailing by a 4-3 mark in a highly emotional shootout, Jade Picard, the sixth shooter, emerged as the heroine.
Providing good vibes for the playoff run, Veillette brought strong consistency, logging points in every Carabins semifinal playoff match versus the Ottawa Gee-Gees. Although the Concordia Stingers captured their second straight RSEQ crown, Les Carabins qualified for the U Sports Nationals, enjoying the distinction of serving as host team. Pleasing the fans at CEPSUM, the opening match resulted in a victory versus the fourth seeded University of New Brunswick Reds, also the Atlantic University Sports champions, by a 4-1 mark. Reaching the bronze medal game, a valiant effort versus the Canada West champion UBC Thunderbirds finished with a 3-2 defeat. Despite a podium finish eluding a highly talented Carabins roster, the level of character and commitment was evident from beginning to end.
“Yes, it was a very good tournament. The end was not as expected, but we are proud of our performance. We had a lot of fun together and we worked very hard throughout the year for this tournament.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”