Les Canadiennes de Montreal won their first game of the season, and got their inaugural victory under their new name. They debuted their sharp new jerseys — a reflection of their partnership with the Montreal Canadiens — and gave the crowd at Etienne-Desmarteau Arena a lot to cheer about.
On the partnership with the Canadiens, assistant coach Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux said that the Canadiens really wanted to do the partnership well. The affiliation with an NHL team was something she and the other co-founders of the CWHL hoped for when they started the league.
"The Montreal Canadiens really wanted to do it well, that's why it took so much time. We have the rewards today, we can see it. It was a dream. I'm just proud to still be part of this."
Marie-Philip Poulin said it was good to see people in the stands, especially young girls.
"The little girls in the stands, they came with their families and I think that's what we wanted. We wanted people to come support us to see that women's hockey is growing and to see that it's good hockey."
They had a shaky start to the game, though. Caroline Ouellette and Poulin took back-to-back penalties early in the period. Brampton was unable to convert on either of them. Les Canadiennes had some sloppy play, firing off passes wide of the mark on the breakout and in the neutral zone, giving the Brampton Thunder some offensive opportunities. Jess Jones had one of the Thunder's few scoring chances midway through the period, capitalizing off of a giveaway at the blue-line and a bad line change.
On the offensive end, Noémie Marin had two good chances. She had a clean break on the penalty kill, streaking in and beating goaltender Erica Howe but not the post. She had another good odd-man rush later in the period, jumping on a puck in the neutral zone and generating a scoring chance.
The period ended with Montreal going on the power play after Sarah Edney took a roughing penalty at 17:57. They were unable to score but both units had good chances.
The Thunder started off the period with a spate of penalties, five in all and four within the first nine minutes of the second. On their first power play of the period, off a too many men call, Les Canadiennes had trouble getting into the zone and setting up, getting few chances.
Les Canadiennes couldn't be kept off the scoresheet for long, though. They capitalized on the next power play, with Ouellette tapping in the puck at the side of the net and scoring the first goal of the CWHL season. Their next goal would come off of another power play, this time with Emmanuelle Blais scoring just 15 seconds into the power play.
The second period was really where the team started pulling away. The Thunder were unable to keep up with Les Canadiennes' speed and skill, getting out of position and taking bad penalties as a result.
Poulin scored a goal late into the period right after the team killed off a penalty from Sophie Brault. Karrell Emard fed her with a great cross ice pass and Poulin beat Howe with an easy tap in.
The third period was much of the same, with Les Canadiennes controlling play for much of the period. Poulin scored her second of the night, catching defender Courtney Birchard late in a shift, streaking down the left side, and firing a laser of a shot off the crossbar and in.
Charline Labonté had a little more to do in this period. The Thunder had some good chances on the powerplay and there were a couple big pile-ups in her crease but she managed to keep the puck out of her net.
- It took a while for the first line of Ouellette, Poulin, and Ann-Sophie Bettez to get going but they were dangerous for two thirds of the game. Poulin is really, really good. It's going to be a real treat to watch her play live this season.
- Poulin, who is on her second stint in the CWHL, says that the league is getting faster and stronger.
- The second line of Blais, Marin, and Kim Deschenes had some good chances, too. Marin, in particular, was a big offensive threat. Deschenes had a play in the first where she showed off her stick-handling in tight and nearly beat Howe short side
- The third line of Emilie Bocchia, Katia Clément-Heydra, and Jordanna Peroff had a good night, too. Clement-Heydra drew a penalty and they didn't spend much time in the defensive zone.
- The fourth line, Audrey Morand, Alyssa Sherrard, and Sara Lachance didn't get much ice time. They were, however, sent out right after Ouellette's goal. I was about to make a joke on twitter about Randy Carlyle coaching tactics but then the line drew a penalty on that same shift.
- The defence did well, too. They had captain Cathy Chartrand on the top pair with Julie Chu. Lauriane Rougeau was paired with Carly Hill and Brault and Karell Emard made up the third pair. They picked good spots to jump into the rush and pinch and weren't exposed very often. Jamie Lee Rattray did have a shot at a clean break on the Canadiennes' 5-on-3 but she mishandled the puck.
- That bottom pair didn't have a whole lot of ice time, either. I asked assistant coach Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux about the distribution of ice time and she said it was pretty standard to not utilize the bottom of the line-up too much. The CWHL season isn't too long (24 games plus the playoffs) but I wonder if they'll be used more down the stretch. Emard, in particular, looked like a very effective player in limited ice time.
- The three stars of the game: Labonte, Ouellette, and Poulin. Can't argue with that.