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Marie-Soleil Deschenes shines in sensational season

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Known affectionately as Sunshine, the positive attitude and genuine enthusiasm Marie-Soleil Deschenes brings to the rink make her an ideal teammate. Hailing from Ile Perrot, Quebec, extending the sterling reputation of quality goaltenders produced by La Belle Province, she gained star standing in an unlikely place.

Participating in U Sports women’s ice hockey, Deschenes became a fan favorite in Charlottetown. Starring for the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers over the course of five seasons, she blossomed into a pivotal player. Her final season in 2016-17 resulted in a place on the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) First-Team All-Stars, an impressive feat taking into account the talent of goaltending in the highly competitive conference.

Reaching double digits in wins during multiple seasons with the Panthers, majoring in Kinesiology, such a feat stood as exemplary of the durability and reliability of Deschenes. Fittingly, her final season, which saw the Panthers earn a fourth place finish in the standings, brought with it record results, reaching 14 wins for the first time ever.

Among the season highlights, Deschenes earned acclaim as the UPEI Female Athlete of the Week (awarded November 15, 2016). In recognition of a valiant 20-save performance which saw the Panthers top the Saint Mary’s Huskies, ranked second in the national polls, the 3-2 final marked one of greatest victories.

Fittingly, the tremendous career of Deschenes came to a highly memorable conclusion.  Gaining dual distinction, the accomplished goaltender earned recognition as Team MVP, proceeded by the prestige of the Panthers Female Athlete of the Year Award,

Following the likes of Tessa Roche and Mikaela Ellis as Panthers hockey greats to earn the honour, Deschenes posted a solid 10-7 won-loss mark in her final season, highlighted by a sparkling 1.82 Goals Against Average and impressive .939 save percentage. Remaining a proud career highlight, Soleil’s reflections encompassed a sincere appreciation for the others that shared in her competitive sojourn on the Island.

“Those awards are what I am the most proud of. I entered the UPEI program to become the best student athlete I could be. With the help of my teammates and the staff, I achieved that goal.”

Upon graduation, the dream of playing professional hockey represented an exciting reality. Returning to her home province, Deschenes earned a place on the roster of Les Canadiennes de Montreal. Continuing the proud tradition of elite goaltenders wearing the bleu, blanc et rouge, she was joined by distinguished company in her rookie campaign.

Serving in the capacity of backup, Deschenes belonged to a crowded goaltending picture, also featuring the likes of future Olympian Emerance Maschmeyer and Catherine Herron, whose uncle Denis, played for the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite having limited playing time in her rookie season of 2017-18, Deschenes took full advantage when gaining the call.

Enjoying her professional debut on February 5, 2018, Deschenes needed only 15 saves, prevailing in a convincing 6-0 shutout versus the Boston Blades. Worth noting, the stars were aligned as it marked an historic affair. In addition to the debut of Deschenes, forward Caroline Ouellette surpassed Jayna Hefford as the CWHL’s all-time goal scoring leader.

Achieving the celebrated milestone of a shutout in her debut, it allowed Deschenes an opportunity to be part of a special chapter among Montreal’s hockey heroines. During the 2013-14 season, Meghan Corley-Byrne also achieved the unique feat, the two intertwined in franchise lore.  

“Playing for Les Canadiennes was a great experience for me. Being in Montreal and having the chance to play with the best players in the world, really helped me improve and love the game even more.”

Enjoying appearances with the Vaudreuil-Dorion Titans and the Maxville Millionaires, the onset of the PWHPA provided Deschenes with another opportunity to compete versus some of the world’s finest female hockey stars. Enjoying a significant amount of playing time during the 2021-22 season, she delivered on all accounts.

Demonstrating her ability to excel in big game situations, Deschenes excelled at a memorable event in Truro, Nova Scotia. Marking the first professional women’s ice hockey matches in the province, the heightened sense of history brought out the best in numerous competitors, including a highly memorable final.

With Montreal’s Team Harvey’s reaching the final versus Calgary’s entry, the key theme emerging was the exceptional goaltending. As Calgary featured Kelsey Roberts between the pipes, there was a unique tinge of coincidence.

Having both excelled in U Sports play, Roberts, an alum of the University of Calgary Dinos, their epic on-ice battle stood as testament to the quality of talent developed in Canadian university competition. Fittingly, the match required a shootout to determine the winner, a 1-1 deadlock after overtime, with fans roaring in approval over the superlative goaltending display witnessed. Although Roberts emerged with the victory on this day, both goaltenders felt a shared sense of achievement, their sterling performance heralding their arrival as prime time players.

Before the season expired, Deschenes added the triumph of a Showcase title to her hockey resume. Emerging victorious in an event in Ottawa, the final Showcase of the season held profound meaning.

Taking place from April 2-3 in Verdun, QC, the chance for Deschenes to compete in her home province once again held significant emotion. Facing off against versus Minnesota’s Team Adidas at the Auditorium de Verdun, six different skaters from Team Harvey’s scored, a tremendous offensive depth on-hand. Certainly, Deschenes fed from the high energy of home ice advantage, recording 28 saves in a 6-3 victory. Ending the season on a highly accomplished note, the assiduousness guarding the crease resulted in one of the most meaningful wins of her professional sojourn, representing the potential of even greater heights to reach.

“Winning the Montreal Showcase was a really great experience. It has been a long time since we played in front of our (home) crowd. I think we gave them a really good Showcase to watch. 

What I like most about the PWHPA is their goal towards women’s hockey. They want the next generation of young girls to dream of a professional league. Everyone on the PWHPA is on the same page and working towards the same goal.”

All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Featured image by Heather Pollock

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