Montreal returns from all-star break ready for last push before the playoffs
Seven members of Les Canadiennes de Montréal played in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL)’s 2019 All-Star Game in Toronto on Jan. 20. Forwards Ann-Sophie Bettez, Hilary Knight, Marie-Philip Poulin and Jill Saulnier, defencemen Erin Ambrose and Lauriane Rougeau, and goalie Emerance Maschmeyer all took part in the league’s festivities.
“It was awesome,” said Ambrose about her second All-Star Game appearance. She was a rookie at the 2017 All-Star Game, as a player for the Toronto Furies. She said it’s enjoyable to play with other players from around the league, and some of the best players in the world.
After a three-week break for the holidays, Les Canadiennes only played four games in January before the All-Star Game. Ambrose said it was a bit tough to have those two breaks so close to each other. “It’s going to be good to get going all the way through until the end of the year,” said Ambrose, who’s also an assistant coach for the Stingers. “I know we could get on a good roll here and keep that momentum going through the playoffs.”
Coming off the all-star break, Les Canadiennes play nine games to finish the regular season, with five played at home. They played the Markham Thunder this past weekend, losing 2-1 on Saturday, but bounced back with 6-2 win on Sunday. The team knows that every game is important in a tight playoff race; four of the six teams in the league make the playoffs to battle for the league’s trophy, the Clarkson Cup. Currently, the winless Worcester Blades are the only team not in the hunt.
“All the teams that we’re playing now, they also have games that matter for playoffs,” said Ambrose. “The level of intensity is going to increase, and there’s going to be some good quality hockey coming up.”
Les Canadiennes are in a battle for first place with the Calgary Inferno. With a 17-3-1 record, the Inferno sit in first place, two points ahead of Les Canadiennes. The two teams play each other this coming weekend, on Feb. 2 and 3, at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard.
Last season, both Les Canadiennes and the Inferno had many players participating in the 2018 Olympics. Over a dozen players between the two teams’ current rosters played in the gold medal match between Canada and the U.S.A., only returning to their teams in the CWHL towards the end of the season. Both teams lost in their first round of the playoffs, with Montreal losing to the Markham Thunder, and Calgary to the Kunlun Red Star.
“It was just nice this year going into it; we knew who our team was and who the group [of players] was going to be,” Ambrose added. “The players we added this year are not only the best in the league, but best in the world, so we’re really fortunate to have them here in Montreal.”
One of those players is Knight, who joined Les Canadiennes late last season. She has seven goals and 15 points this season. Poulin leads the league in scoring with 39 points, while Ambrose has the most points by a defender with 23.
With some of the top players in the league, Ambrose knows the team’s expectations are high. “Our main goal is to win the Clarkson Cup,” Ambrose said. “We expect to be the best, we want to be the best, and that’s something we hold each other accountable for every single day.”
Main photo by Heather Pollock / Les Canadiennes.