Extending Montreal’s CWHL hockey legacy for boasting the greatest goaltenders between the pipes, the torch has been brilliantly passed to Emerance Maschmeyer. Representing the promising future of women’s ice hockey and its growing professional footprint, the native of Bruderheim, Alberta has forged an impressive body of work.
The fourth rookie to start a Clarkson Cup final, achieving the feat on NHL ice as a member of the Calgary Inferno in 2017, following in the footsteps of iconic backstops Liz Knox (2012), Genevieve Lacasse (2013), Brittany Ott (2014), at Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre, there was a tinge of irony in the fact that she opposed Les Canadiennes de Montreal, her new team just a few months later.
As the first goaltender from Alberta to have played on all three levels of Canada’s women’s ice hockey program, complemented by backstopping her home province to the gold medal at the 2011 Canada Winter Games, the eastward direction of Maschmeyer’s hockey odyssey has only enhanced her status as one of the nation’s finest, while gaining a second nod as a CWHL All-Star in 2019.
Heading into the All-Star Break, Maschmeyer had already logged a solid 30-7-0-2 mark in her Canadiennes career, highlighted by 10 shutouts. Racking up five consecutive victories from October 20 to November 17, including series sweeps of the defending Clarkson Cup champion Markham Thunder, plus the Toronto Furies, led by Natalie Spooner and Sarah Nurse, the most impressive aspect of this sensational streak included three straight shutouts.
Pacing all CWHL backstops in victories, games and minutes played, while trailing just Annie Belanger, a rookie backstop for the Calgary Inferno, in the race for the regular season goaltending championship, Maschmeyer is also tied with Belanger for the league lead in shutouts.
Representing one of the shrewdest acquisitions in Montréal franchise history, which has also included the recent offseason signings of former Inferno teammates Jillian Saulnier and Genevieve Lacasse, Maschmeyer holds the potential to define the franchise’s goaltending picture for a decade to come. Complemented by the presence of Lacasse, a Winter Games gold medalist from 2014, they currently represent the most impressive goaltending duo in the league.
Returning to the NHL ice of Toronto’s Scotiabank Centre for her second All-Star appearance, Maschmeyer was selected by All-Star captain Brigette Lacquette in the Frozen Fantasy All-Star Draft to be the starting goaltender for Team Purple. Joined in the starting lineup by Canadiennes teammate Marie-Philip Poulin, she was most notably, the first pick overall in said Draft. Completing Montreal’s representation on Team Purple was blueliner Lauriane Rougeau, like Poulin, was a member of the franchise’s first-ever Clarkson Cup championship team.
“It was special to be named to the starting lineup as the other two goalies up for the draft (Alex Rigsby and Noora Raty) are incredible and could have easily been chosen to start.”
As the second goaltender for Team Purple, Alex Rigsby had been accustomed to calling Maschmeyer an opponent. Among their most notable matches involved the gold medal game of the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Championships in Kamloops, British Columbia, one of the most dramatic in tournament history.
With a scoreless tie in regulation, overtime required to decide the gold medalists. Making 33 saves in a highly admirable effort which tugged at the heartstrings of the faithful fans on home soil, Maschmeyer emerged with Top Goaltender Honors while posting a sparkling 1.25 goals against average. Certainly, the event was a coming-out party for both, as the rest of the hockey world caught up to their radiant skills.
Having also opposed each other in the opening round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, where Maschmeyer, an Ivy League First-Team All-Star stood between the pipes for the Harvard Crimson, graduating two years later as the program’s all-time saves leader, while Rigsby guarded the crease for the Wisconsin Badgers, their professional sojourns are destined to set the stage for some epic battles.
Notably, Rigsby made her CWHL debut on October 13 versus Maschmeyer, their hockey journeys remained intertwined. Despite Rigsby’s Calgary Inferno outshooting Montreal by a 21-20 margin, it was Maschmeyer who gained bragging rights in a hotly contested 2-1 final.
With a new chapter composed in such a rivalry, the CWHL All-Star Game redefined the dynamic, placing them in the rare role of teammates. Although both may be on a collision course towards this year’s Clarkson Cup finals, the All-Star reprieve allowed for a reciprocal appreciation, and a new perspective on their standing among the greatest goaltenders of their generation.
“I have lined up against Alex Rigsby many times, whether it be in the NCAA Top 8 playoffs, at the World Championship, the Four Nations Cup or the CWHL. It is always a great goalie battle between the two of us. I respect her as a goaltender as I have witnessed her skill firsthand but now after spending a day as goalie partners, I respect her as a person off the ice. We remain competitors on the ice but I believe there is a mutual respect as we naturally have very similar goals and lifestyles.”
In addition to the appeal of calling Rigsby a teammate, the chance to wear the Team Purple jersey brought with it another unique highlight, emphasizing the feeling of homecoming.
Considering that her hometown of Bruderheim, where her formative youth also involved gold medals at the 2007 and 2009 Alberta Winter Games, along with accolades playing alongside boys at the major bantam level in Fort Saskatchewan, is located 47 kilometers northeast of Edmonton, she was an ardent fan of the dynastic Oilers.
Curtis Joseph, who served as head coach for Team Purple, with Cheryl Pounder part of his staff, enjoyed some of the greatest seasons of his NHL career between the pipes for the Edmonton Oilers. Prior to signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent in the summer of 1998, he spent three seasons with a rebuilding Oilers club, winning over 75 games, while establishing himself as a key trigger in the franchise’s playoff resurgence, highlighted by some epic playoff battles with the Dallas Stars.
Gaining the opportunity to play for one of the favorite Oilers of her childhood added luster to such an exciting milestone in her professional career. Taking into account that Joseph has also captured a gold medal in the Winter Games, an achievement that Maschmeyer aspires to, it brought out an increased enthusiasm, while also tapping into her own hockey heritage.
Of note, such heritage also involves the fact that her older sister Brittaney skated for the iconic Edmonton Chimos in the former Western Women’s Hockey League, even appearing in 15 games during the Inferno’s inaugural season of 2011-12, under the nomenclature of Team Alberta.
“Playing for Curtis Joseph brought out the young and excited goalie in me. He has accomplished so much in his hockey career having played many years in the NHL, including playing for one of my favorite teams, the Edmonton Oilers. He also represented Canada and led them to an Olympic gold medal which I commend him on. In the locker room he shared many of his past experiences, stories and advice.”
In the aftermath of an electrifying All-Star event which saw both teams account for 12 goals, Maschmeyer reflected on the happenings with a newfound admiration for her Canadiennes teammates. As a result of the Draft, players from the club were sprinkled on both rosters.
Opposing Maschmeyer as members of Team Gold included Ann-Sophie Bettez, who was part of the roster’s starting lineup. Gaining Second Star of the Game honors, Bettez, who scored twice in a victory for Team Gold, emerged as a key catalyst. As a side note, Brianne Jenner, a former teammate of Maschmeyer’s with the Inferno, also placed her name on the scoresheet during All-Star play for Team Gold.
Joined by fantastic forwards Hilary Knight and Jillian Saulnier, all continuing to display strong synergy on the offense, Erin Ambrose, a former rival of Maschmeyer’s at the collegiate level in the ECAC Conference, entering her first full season for Montreal, was lined up on defense for Team Purple.
With Bettez and Maschmeyer, along with Saulnier, part of Team Canada’s roster in the Rivalry Series against the United States (contested in mid-February), the All-Star experience was one that helped to strengthen the feeling of unity that comes from wearing the bleu, blanc et rouge.
“I realized shortly after the All-Star Game concluded that I would rather have my Les Canadiennes teammate play with me rather than against me. Our team is a special group with a great amount of skill and work ethic and many of our other teammates could have easily been in the All-Star mix.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Images obtained from: https://twitter.com/emerance_m?lang=en and https://twitter.com/LesCanadiennes?lang=en
Acknowledgements: Safia Ahmad