For Les Canadiennes de Montreal, their season opener represented more than just a 4-0 shutout win. It was a bold statement that the squad is looking to finish the season as Clarkson Cup champions.
Hosting the Brampton Thunder at the Centre Etienne-Desmarteau, Les Canadiennes made it clear that they are still one of the finest teams in all women’s hockey. With Charline Labonte standing between the pipes, it only added to the confidence of the team heading into their season opener.
In the first period, Labonte would only face two Brampton shots, while Les Canadiennes peppered Brampton goaltender Erica Howe (the winning goalie in the inaugural CWHL All-Star Game) with nine shots. Despite a scoreless first, Labonte nullified two Brampton power plays, while Sarah Edney, the first pick overall in the 2015 CWHL Draft was sent to the penalty box at the 17:57 mark, as Brampton was shorthanded for the first time in the game.
Penalties would haunt Brampton in the second period as the squad endured five penalties in a time span of less than 12 minutes. Brampton’s second penalty, which saw rookie Whitney Hannah-Horne called for hooking opened the door for Montreal’s first scoring opportunity.
Caroline Ouellette, the CWHL’s all-time leading scorer, adding to her impressive career total by logging a power play goal, providing Les Canadiennes with their first lead of the game. Assisted by Lauriane Rougeau and Marie-Philip Poulin, Ouellette’s teammates at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Ouellette’s goal would also prove to be the game-winning tally.
Just 15 seconds after rookie Rebecca Vint was called for her second penalty of the game at 12:04, Les Canadiennes struck again. Capitalizing on the power play was Emmanuelle Blais, while veteran blueliner Carly Hill earned her first point of the season, earning the assist.
Before the period would expire, Les Canadiennes added to their 2-0 lead as Marie-Philip Poulin scored her first goal of the game at the 19:49 mark. Having played for the Stars from 2007-10, Poulin’s return to the CWHL was one long anticipated by Montreal hockey fans.
With Ouellette earning the assist on Poulin’s goal, the two would team up once again in the third period. Along with Hill, the two would earn the assist on Poulin’s second goal of the game, scored at 5:45 of the third, placing the game out of reach for a dejected Brampton squad.
Considering that Brampton were called for two penalties in the last five minutes of the third period, the squad will need to provide more disciplined play should it wish to return to the postseason for the first time since 2013. One highlight for the squad was Howe’s strong play between the pipes, as she faced 41 shots, compared to 15 for Labonte, who logged the shutout win as Montreal begins its quest for its fourth Clarkson Cup.
Image obtained from Facebook