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Les Canadiennes shine bright at CWHL Awards

Montreal was well represented at the annual CWHL Awards Gala

CWHL/Chris Tanouye

For someone with as much talent as Marie-Philip Poulin, she sure doesn't like the spotlight.

Poulin, the star of Les Canadiennes, was the night's big winner, taking home the CWHL MVP award and Jayna Hefford Award [MVP as voted on by the players], along with the Angela James Bowl she'd already won for being the league's leading scorer on Friday night, but often times looked downright embarrassed.

"I'm so shy every time that happens," Poulin said about the amount of hardware she won. "It's such a team sport. When I get individual awards, I get shy because nothing happens by yourself. We have such a great team, I have such a great environment around me that makes me better."

She led the league with 46 points (23 goals, 23 assists) in just 22 games, and without a doubt was the league's best player. She was only held scoreless in four of her 22 games, and quickly adjusted to the league.

She was nominated for MVP against Brampton Thunder defender, Laura Fortino, and Toronto Furies forward Natalie Spooner.

She wasn't the only Canadienne to walk away with some hardware, as Charline Labonté won her second straight Goaltender of the Year award.

Labonté led all starting goaltenders in wins (17-2-0), goals against average (1.52), save percentage (.925), and shutouts, but says it says more about her team than about her.

"Last year I feel like I did a little bit more, this year I felt I was in the background a little bit, because people were playing so well in front of me," Labonté said. "Not only scoring a lot of goals but my defence played so well and blocked so many shots. It was harder because I wasn't getting many shots. It was a team effort and I can't take credit for that."

When asked if she would rather the workload of Boston Blades netminder, Geneviève Lacasse, who faced an average of 50 shots per 60 minutes and set a CWHL record with 1023 saves in 23 games, Labonté was quick to clarify.

"Maybe not that much," Labonté laughed. "Something in between."

Labonté beat out Lacasse and Brampton's Erica Howe for the award.

Also winning an award was Montreal assistant coach Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux. The former Montreal captain is in her first year of retirement, and was one of the co-founders of the league back in 2007. Her role in the league, and specifically the Montreal franchise, was also recognized on Friday. Breton-Lebreux won the Humanitarian Award given to the individual who demonstrates the spirit of the CWHL through volunteer work, advocacy, leadership and/or philanthropy.

"It's an honour for me. I feel privileged to win this award," Breton-Lebreux said. "I'm very proud of what the CWHL became because at first it was really, really hard. It started slowly but lately it's been growing really, really fast," she continued pointing to events on NHL ice, partnerships with NHL teams, and being at the Winter Classic.

Les Canadiennes were also presented with the Chairman's Trophy for winning the regular season title.

Brampton came away with two awards as Tyler Fines took away coach of the year honours for turning the team around from last place to a chance for home ice advantage in the playoffs, and Fortino won defenceman of the year.

"It's a great individual award, but [Canadiennes head coach Dany Brunet and Calgary Inferno head coach Scott Reid] are playing for the one we want," Fines said. "But you don't do it without a great support system and that's what we have in Brampton."

Fines, who is in his first year with the Thunder after coaching in men's leagues, said there was a significant adjustment to make.

"The women taught me how to be a better coach and how to be a better man," Fines said. "They hold you accountable. You coach men's hockey you can tell them whatever you want them to do and they'll do it. When you coach women there's always a why, and I hope some that men and junior hockey players, when a coach tells you do something and you don't agree with it, you ask why. That was one of the main reasons we had success was that the players made my coaching staff better."

"[This year] has been amazing," Fortino said. "The new girls we got on the team, and playing beside Courtney Birchard, we had a great season together and we did so well as a team and it's obviously what helped with my success also."

Calgary's Elana Lovell took home rookie of the year honours. The seventh round pick in this year's CWHL Draft had 14 goals and 12 assists in 24 games to tie for the CWHL Rookie scoring lead with fellow nominee Rebecca Vint from Brampton and Montreal's Katia Clement-Heydra.

"This year has been such an experience," Lovell said. "It was a shock. I kind of underestimated myself a bit. To get this award is a really big honour."

Today is a Community Day around Ottawa as players from both teams will be at various events. The championship game for the Clarkson Cup goes tomorrow at 4:00 p.m., and will be broadcast on Sportsnet's main network.