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CWHL recap & highlights: Les Canadiennes split weekend series with Calgary Inferno

Two tightly contested games leave both teams with two points

Shanna Martin / CWHL

Les Canadiennes split their season-opening series with the Calgary Inferno winning on Saturday at the Aréna du Rocket and then fell in the rematch at the Place Bell community rink.

Saturday: Les Canadiennes 2, Calgary Inferno 1

In the first game of the weekend series, Les Canadiennes beat the Calgary Inferno 2-1 in front of 1,567 at Place Bell.

Sarah Lefort scored the game-winning goal with 5:59 remaining in the third period to secure the win in Montreal’s first game of the season.

Jill Saulnier and Hilary Knight both got their first points as members of Les Canadiennes on the play, and it was a true line effort as Saulnier rushed the puck towards the net and took the initial shot on Calgary goaltender Alex Rigsby, Knight attempted a rebound and Lefort got the final touch to put it past the line.

Calgary opened the scoring in the first period when Brianna Decker, one of the best players in the world, roofed a shot past Emerance Maschmeyer from in close.

Montreal would respond to tie the game just over seven minutes later from an unlikely source. Maude Gelinas would score her first CWHL goal from the fourth line after a great pass from fellow rookie Catherine Daoust.

“I’m not really a goal scorer, I’m more of a passer,” Gelinas said after the game. “It’s pretty exceptional to score in my first game in front of a crowd like that.”

The line of Gelinas, Olivia Atkinson and Tracy-Ann Lavigne wasn’t on the ice a lot, but they were able to create opportunities throughout the game,

“We won’t hide anything. The fourth line is the one with the least ice time,” said Canadiennes head coach Dany Brunet. “When you have a fourth line that gets you a goal like that, not to take anything away from the three others, it brings a lot of energy. The players know it’s a role that’s hard to play and when a goal happens from them, every player on the bench plays a couple of inches taller and a few pounds heavier.”

Maschmeyer was great down the stretch for Montreal, and ended up making 20 saves in the win. Rigsby made 18 for Calgary.

Sunday: Les Canadiennes 1, Calgary Inferno 3

Montreal got out of the gate strong, with a few chances coming in close, but Rigsby turned each chance aside.

This time Les Canadiennes opened the scoring at the 11:56 mark of the opening frame when their top line connected. Marie-Philip Poulin weaved magic in front of the net, got Rigsby out of position and found an open Mélodie Daoust. Daoust made no mistake potting her first career goal in a Canadiennes uniform.

“It’s our first weekend together, and we can take a lot of positives out of it,” said Poulin following the game. “You know you always want to win, but it can’t always be perfect. There are a lot of lessons we’ve learned this weekend.”

Daoust and Poulin played on a line together with Ann-Sophie Bettez. Both players were centralized with Team Canada last season and took home the silver medal at the Olympics in PyeongChang.

“Every time you get to wear the Canadiennes jersey, it brings out a lot of pride, lots of history,” said Poulin. “Each time we have a new teammate, it just adds a new member to our family, and they showed it this weekend.”

Late in the first there was a collision in the Inferno defensive zone, and Calgary defender Katelyn Gosling fell awkwardly, getting up afterwards putting no weight on her left leg.

The second period looked like a revamped team for the visitors. Brianne Jenner scored her first goal of the season, 26 seconds in, on a goal past Emerance Maschmeyer, who wound up making 14 saves in loss.

Fourty seconds later, Calgary forward Rebecca Leslie jumped on a loose rebound and potted her first of the campaign past Maschmeyer.

“I think coming into this weekend we were very confident, but we know that Calgary is a good team too,” said Maschmeyer, who started her CWHL career with the Inferno. “We knew this weekend would be a battle, and it was exactly that.”

Despite being down in the game, Montreal were strong in getting many chances, but unable to get anything past Rigsby, who was lights out after the early goal, making 22 saves for her first win in her CWHL career.

The third period had seen a lot of chances on either side, but no goals or penalties through the majority of the frame.

Montreal, with its last hope, pulled Maschmeyer with just under two minutes to go, but it was the Inferno that took advantage, when Rebecca Johnston connected on an empty net goal from just inside the blue line, to seal the victory.

Les Canadiennes dressed Marie-Joelle Allard, who got to don the jersey for the first time in their career after sitting out on Saturday.

“I was very nervous and excited in the beginning,” said Allard. “I know it’s a different team and mindset than [Concordia], and there are adjustments to make, but I like it, and look forward towards the future.”

After splitting the first two games of the season, Les Canadiennes get set to host the defending Clarkson Cup champion Markham Thunder next weekend on October 20 and 21. Saturday’s game will be at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard and Sunday’s will be at the Michel Normandin arena, part of the Claude Robillard sports complex.

It is also a rematch of last year’s CWHL semi-final which the Thunder swept in two games in Montreal last year.

Markham swept the Worcester Blades this weekend.