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Les Canadiennes season preview: Canadian content leads Montreal’s blue line and goaltending

Montreal’s defence is undergoing a transition, but their goaltending got stronger.

Shanna Martin

Les Canadiennes get their season underway on Saturday evening against the Calgary Inferno at Place Bell. To lead up to the season and to get to know the players a little more, Habs Eyes on the Prize will provide capsules on every player on the Fabs roster.

We looked at the forwards on Thursday. Today, we take a look at the defence and goaltenders.


Defence

#5 - Lauriane Rougeau - Age 28

Rougeau is not flashy, but don’t take that the wrong way. She is a really good defender who is a mainstay on the Canadian national team, she just won’t blow you away with her point totals. She is a player who can move the puck (by skating and passing) and play on the second power play unit and help the team score, but she isn’t a player who will lead a team offensively.

In her own end, she is probably the team’s best defender. She wasn’t named to Canada’s roster for the 4 Nations Cup (named on Thursday) so she may have a bit of a chip on her shoulder.

She has nine goals and 30 assists in 72 CWHL games. In 10 games at the Olympics (in 2014 and 2018) she has no points. She has a goal and five assists in 24 games at the World Championships.

#12 - Catherine Daoust - Age 23

Daoust is one of the rookie defenders, along with Taylor Willard, expected to play the biggest role this season. She was the team’s fifth-round pick this year, and won a gold medal with Canada at the 2013 Under 18 World Championship with Team Canada.

She played her NCAA hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth where she had nine goals and 28 assists in 140 games.

She will likely play a regular role for the Canadiennes this season but if the team plays their right-handed shots on their strong side, she’s behind Erin Ambrose and likely behind Taylor Willard.

#14 - Erin Ambrose - Age 24

Unlike Rougeau, Erin Ambrose may very well be one of the best offensive defenders in the CWHL. She is quite simply one of the best passers in the league, especially from the back end.

You will see her launch breakaway passes from deep in her own zone and creating scoring opportunities for her teammates. She played forward in a pre-season game this year, and performed well. She was named one of the team’s alternate captains on Friday, as well.

For all her offensive skill, she’s still very solid in the defensive zone. She was a surprise early cut from Team Canada’s Olympic team last year, and came back to perform very well with Les Canadiennes after being acquired from the Toronto Furies. She had two goals and 14 assists in 16 games, for a point-per-game pace.

She won two gold medals and a silver with Canada at the World Under 18 Championships, and a silver at the 2017 Senior Worlds.

This pass was in her first game with Montreal, and is an indicator of her passing talent.

#17 - Melanie Desrochers - Age 26

Desrochers may be the most interesting player on the Canadiennes roster. Off the ice, she is a neuroscientist and co-hosts a podcast called The Last Stretch about how athletes perform at their best.

On the ice, she took a huge leap last season. In her first season, 2016-17, she struggled to find playing time adapting back to hockey three years after graduating from St. Lawrence University where she played for four years and was captain in her final year.

She went from one assist in 10 games in 2016-17 to playing all 28 games, scoring three goals and adding seven assists. She will often surprise with her ability to skate with the puck, jump into the play in the offensive zone, and spent the pre-season playing on the second power play unit.

#20 - Marie-Joelle Allard - Age 26

Allard was Montreal’s sixth-round pick in the most recent CWHL Draft from Concordia University. She was named to the RSEQ (Quebec Conference) First All Star team in her final season.

She had four goals and 28 assists in 95 games at Concordia, and added three points in three games at last year’s National Championship tournament where her Stingers finished third.

She will likely be in a rotation in and out of the Fabs lineup this season, but had a very strong pre-season when she was in the lineup, including a goal and an assist in her first game which happened to be against Concordia.

#23 - Sophie Brault - Age 29

Brault is entering her fifth full season with the Canadiennes, and will likely reach the 100 game milestone this season. She currently sits at 92 career games and has 17 assists to her credit. She had six of them last year in 28 games.

She is likely going to be in the bottom pairing rotation and has been trusted to pick up minutes throughout her career with the team. She is the most experienced blue liner in the pack, a testament to her ability to keep her spot in the team despite most of the blue line changing around her. She has been the constant in the group.

She represented Canada at the 2014 Universiade when she played for the University of Montreal.

#27 - Taylor Willard - Age 22

Willard is the rookie defender expected to contribute the most this season. The fourth-round pick was the captain her last two seasons at the University of Vermont, and won a silver medal at the 2013 Under 18 World Championships representing Team USA.

The Bolingbrook, Illinois native is one of two American-born players on the team. She had 21 goals and 41 assists in 145 career NCAA games and she had a very good pre-season where she showed her two-way play.

She’s not flashy offensively, but she is a solid two-way defender who is part of the new era of the Canadiennes blue line.

#72 - Emma Martin - Age 22

Martin was a seventh-round pick out of the University of Prince Edward Island. The PEI native had five goals and 18 assists in 66 U Sports games, and was named to the Atlantic University Sport second all-star team in her final season.

She will likely be in the bottom pairing rotation, and didn’t look out of place in the pre-season. Like so many of the players on the Canadiennes, she was a captain at the university level. Martin competed in track and field for Prince Edward Island at the 2013 Canada Games in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Defence

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
17- Melanie Desrochers 14- Erin Ambrose
5- Lauriane Rougeau 27- Taylor Willard
23- Sophie Brault 12- Catherine Daoust
20- Marie-Joelle Allard 72- Emma Martin

Goaltenders

#35 - Marie-Soleil Deschênes - Age 24

Deschênes is entering her second season with Les Canadiennes, and served as the third goaltender last year. She did get to play one game last year and ended it without allowing a goal, which means her career record is 1-0-0, with a 0.00 goals against average, 100% save percentage and one shutout.

Deschênes has already defied the odds of being a ninth-round pick in the 2017 Draft and also played university hockey at the University of Prince Edward Island. Her final year in U Sports, she posted a GAA of 1.82 and save percentage of .939. She likely won’t receive much playing time behind the dynamic goaltending duo that Montreal has entering this season.

#38 - Emerance Maschmeyer - Age 24

Maschmeyer may very well be one of the best young Canadian goaltenders. She was named to Canada’s 4 Nations Cup roster after serving as an alternate to the National team leading up to the Olympics, suiting up when Shannon Szabados was suffering from injuries during centralization.

Maschmeyer was acquired from Calgary before last season, and didn’t disappoint in her first season with Montreal with the unenviable task of replacing Charline Labonté. She had a 18-4-0 record with a 1.78 GAA and .920 save percentage. Over her two seasons in the CWHL, she is 23-7-0 with a 1.71 GAA and .927 save percentage.

She had three straight World Championship silver medals from 2015-2017 with Team Canada, and won a gold medal at the 2012 Under-18 championships. The 2016 silver medal was bittersweet. She played outstanding in a 1-0 overtime loss in the gold medal game.

#60 - Geneviève Lacasse - Age 29

Lacasse was acquired alongside Jill Saulnier in the summer blockbuster with the Calgary Inferno. She was born in Montreal but grew up in Kingston before coming back to Montreal for high school. She then went to Providence College in the NCAA before playing in the CWHL with the Boston Blades, and Calgary Inferno.

She has been to the last two Olympic games in Sochi and PyeongChang, and got to play her first Olympic game in the round robin against the United States. She made 44 saves in a 2-1 win.

Lacasse and Maschmeyer shared the net in Calgary as part of a three-goalie rotation but they are looking forward to a more natural two-goalie system in Montreal. Lacasse won two Clarkson Cups with the Boston Blades, and has a perfect 7-0 playoff record in the CWHL.

She also set the record for most saves in a CWHL season with the Blades in 2015-16, making 1,023 saves in 23 games.