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Canadiennes Notebook: Among some chaos, a ray of Sunshine

Marie-Soleil Deschênes brings a positive attitude and a strong work ethic to the rink, and is rewarded when given a chance.

Shanna Martin / CWHL

Les Canadiennes have already been on the ice for a while during one of their practices. The drill is one that has a lot of back-and-forth. Some offence, some defence. They alternate shooting on both goaltenders, Emerance Maschmeyer and Marie-Soleil Deschênes.

The play goes to the far end. A combination of Canadiennes shooters attack Deschênes, who has played one game this season and two over her CWHL career. She makes a big save. The shooters are silent, but there’s a stick tapping onto the ice at the other end of the rink. That of Maschmeyer.

“It’s always a joke that coaches seem to end drills on goals,” Maschmeyer said. “So, as goalies, you like to cheer each other because we don’t get a lot of that from the players - they like to cheer when they score against us.”

“The scorers always want to score, but when we make a big save, the goaltenders support each other too,” said Deschênes, known affectionately to her teammates as Sunshine.

Maschmeyer and Deschênes are unlikely partners. Maschmeyer, a first-round pick in the CWHL out of Harvard University, who has been to multiple World Championships with Team Canada, and Deschênes who comes from U Sports and the University of Prince Edward Island, a late round pick who had to beat out several contenders just to win a spot.

“All these people think [goalie relationships] are weird... But we just have a different perspective,” Maschmeyer said.

Deschênes was the third goaltender on the team last year, behind Maschmeyer and Catherine Herron. She got into one game against the Boston Blades, on the road. She made 15 saves in her debut on February 5 for the shutout.

This year, Deschênes was again supposed to be the third goaltender, this time behind the formidable duo of Maschmeyer and Geneviève Lacasse. But Lacasse has been injured the entire season to date with a lower body injury the team said occurred over the summer.

Deschênes got another opportunity to play, November 18 this year against Worcester. The coaches let her know during the week that she would start the second game. She stepped in, and made 27 saves for her second consecutive shutout. She has yet to allow a goal in the CWHL.

“I was really happy to get another game with the Canadiennes,” Deschênes said. “I hope to get more.”

“She’s unbelievable,” said Maschmeyer. “She worked so hard and she’s played two games in the last season and almost a half now and that’s not easy. I see her at practice and how hard she works. And I appreciate it so much. She pushes me every single day and then when she gets a chance to play, she hasn’t let in a goal.”

Deschênes says that she tries to push Maschmeyer as well, knowing that her role is that of the backup.

“It’s really hard but the goal is to stay motivated, to push the other goalie while improving myself,” Deschênes said. “It’s a good challenge and it’s fun.”

Even practicing with Les Canadiennes provides her with a unique opportunity. Not every player gets to face off against Marie-Philip Poulin and Hilary Knight, among others.

“We have the best players in the world, even if I don’t play games the practices are still a good challenge.”

And the team has confidence in her. Erin Ambrose mentioned after the game on November 18 that the team has confidence in her when she goes in there. And Deschênes can sense it.

“It’s reassuring to know I have the team’s confidence. It helps me to improve and work hard and it raises my confidence as well.”

In the same game that Deschênes played against Worcester, her former UPEI teammate Emma Martin scored her first CWHL goal in her second career game.

“Emma and I know each other a long time and for me to get a shut out on the same day she gets her first goal, it was great moment,” Deschênes said.

And even though there’s not much game action for Deschênes, she understands the opportunity she has, and the place that she’s in. In the CWHL there are only 18 spots for goaltenders. In North American women’s professional hockey there are a total of under 40.

“It’s an honour for me to practice and play with the best players in the world. I admire all of the players and I take each moment to heart.”

“There aren’t a lot of teams in the league so to have a spot is special. The CWHL is the NHL for women and it’s not everyone who can play for a national team so this league really shows people all of the talent that exists in Canada and the United States.”

A new era, indeed

Many times this off-season, Canadiennes general manager Meg Hewings has called this year the start of a new era for Les Canadiennes.

The resignation of Dany Brunet as head coach of the team is just the latest in a multitude of changes occurring around the franchise.

The franchise has been known for its stability, and is facing an unprecedented amount of change. Montreal is just two years away from winning the Clarkson Cup, but incredibly, only seven players remain on the current roster from that game. An eighth, Melanie Desrochers was on the roster but did not play. And with Brunet’s departure, the team has no remaining behind the bench coaches from that team, either.

The team has yet to announce a coach for the remainder of the season, but Caroline Ouellette will coach the two games this weekend as she did last weekend in Calgary. The thing that complicates naming a coach for the Canadiennes is the fact that they leave for China shortly and play their first game on December 12 in Shenzhen.

It’s possible a coach will be named before then, but it’s also possible they will wait until the post-Holiday break.