After Les Canadiennes played their series against the Worcester Blades, but before the news was official that Caroline Ouellette and Danièle Sauvageau would be officially taking over for the rest of the season, it was pretty clear what the players wanted.
“I love it,” said Canadiennes defender Lauriane Rougeau. “She always says we’re not going to love this honeymoon phase that we’re in but for me it’s an opportunity to learn from one of the best. We need someone of her calibre to help us reach the next step. We have some great players and it’s how the team moves forward.”
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Marie-Philip Poulin. “Sometimes I need to pinch myself when I look back and it’s Caro telling you what to do and what you can do better. There’s nobody else who knows the game better than her. We couldn’t ask for a better coach. She knows the game, she’s so passionate. She’s going to tell you how it is, she’s not going to sugarcoat it which is amazing as a coach. Everyone respects her and we’re lucky in Montreal to have her.”
Before the coaching shuffle even happened, I asked Hilary Knight about Ouellette - then the team’s skills coach - saying that she would rather stay in the women’s game than head towards the NHL.
“She’d be able to do anything. She’s special in that regard,” Knight said. “Her goals have been growing [the women’s game] from the grassroots level to the professional level. We’re extremely happy to have her here. She does a great job with us. She’s lived it on our side and knows what makes a good coach and what doesn’t.”
Due to previous commitments, Ouellette is not with the team in China but it will be Sauvageau - the Olympic champion coach who led the 2002 Olympic team - behind the bench for the team’s three games.
Montreal left on Saturday, and more than 30 hours later, arrived in Shenzhen where they will play the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays for three games starting Wednesday morning (Eastern).
The trip has been altered after feedback from all the teams last year to give more time before the first game, and it helps that the teams play three games as opposed to four when there were two teams in China a year ago.
Montreal is three points ahead of Shenzhen in the standings with a game in hand as they get set for their three game series.
Schedule (all times and dates Eastern)
The CWHL All-Star game is on January 20 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto and seven members of Les Canadiennes have been selected to play. Erin Ambrose, Ann-Sophie Bettez, Hilary Knight, Emerance Maschmeyer, Marie-Philip Poulin, Jillian Saulnier, and Lauriane Rougeau have been selected.