Les Canadiennes will be facing off against the Kunlun Red Star three times in the next four days but it will be the Bell Centre that will provide a fitting backdrop for the historic first meeting of the two teams on Saturday afternoon.
The inaugural CWHL game at the Bell Centre last season was a success, with Montreal defeating the Calgary Inferno 1–0 in front of 5,938 fans. Over four thousand people watched the game from home through the CWHL stream, while Kunlun’s recent game against Calgary drew 80,000 online viewers.
The Kunlun Red Star joined the CWHL this summer in the league’s expansion to China. The Kunlun roster is abundant with new talent as well as some faces that are familiar to the CWHL.
Forward Jessica Wong has joined the team after spending three years with the Calgary Inferno. Clarkson Cup winners and former Boston Blades forwards Kelli Stack and Rachel Llanes have returned to the league after spending time in the NWHL. During the 2016-2017 season Stack scored 19 points in 12 games with the Connecticut Whale, while Llanes won the Isobel cup with the Boston Pride in the league’s inaugural 2015-2016 season.
Stack, along with Shiann Darkangelo and Stephanie Anderson were all members of the United States national team.
The Red Star, whose goal is to help grow the game in China for the 2022 Olympics have some top Chinese talent as well. Forward Lixue Xing currently ranks second all-time in scoring for China’s U18 women’s team, where last year she was an alternate captain. A former captain of the Chinese U18 team, Wenzhuo Wang, is also playing for Kunlun.
Goaltender Noora Räty provides a strong backbone to the team, as she made evident in the team’s 8-0 preseason win over Brown University, and with her record on Finland’s national team. She is currently in Tampa at the 4 Nations Cup with Team Finland but could be back for Tuesday’s game. Forward Annina Rajahuhta is also in Tampa.
Kunlun opened their season on the road with 2-1 and 3-0 losses to the Markham Thunder. Their lone goal was scored by Zoe Hickel, with the assist coming from Stack and Beiwei Yu. In their first game against Calgary, Kunlun earned a 4-3 overtime win. Two of those goals, including the overtime winner, came from Rajahuhta. The other goals came from Shiann Darkangelo and Kelli Stack. Stack was the team’s only goal scorer in their second game against Calgary, a 4-1 loss.
Les Canadiennes opened their season with 5-2 and 5-3 wins against the Boston Blades. They followed that up with 1-0 and 3-2 overtime wins against Markham.
Cathy Chartrand currently leads the team with six points. She has three goals and three assists this year and was named the CWHL’s player of the month for the month of October. The team is undefeated and currently has a league-leading 28.6% on the power play.
Montreal’s starting goaltender will be Emerance Maschmeyer is in her first year with Les Canadiennes but will be getting set for her second Bell Centre start. She was the goaltender for Calgary last year.
Saturday’s game at the Bell Centre will start at 1:00pm, tickets are available here.
The other two games of the series will be played Sunday and Tuesday at the Arena Michel-Normandin at the Claude Robillard Sports Complex. Sunday’s game starts at 1:30 p.m. and will feature a post-game autograph signing. Tuesday’s game will be a rare weeknight encounter. It will start at 7:00 p.m. Tickets for those games are available here. There is a special promotional ticket price for students for Tuesday’s game.