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Mélodie Daoust, Erin Ambrose lead by example as Les Canadiennes start their pre-season

Key players show their skills in pre-season opener

Shanna Martin / CWHL

Mélodie Daoust has as many Olympic medals as she does CWHL regular games, and on Sunday afternoon scored two goals and added an assist in Les Canadiennes’ 7-1 over the Concordia Stingers.

The team’s 2017 first-round pick missed last season when she just happened to win Olympic MVP while earning an Olympic silver medal with Team Canada to go with her gold from 2014. This year, she is expected to be a leader on a team despite this being her first full CWHL season.

Daoust played two games during the 2010-11 CWHL season before heading to McGill University, earning three assists.

“On any team, whether you have a letter on your jersey or not, you need to be a leader,” she said. “That’s how a team should be, every person whether it’s your first year or tenth year should lead by example and that’s what I want to bring this season.”

“I want to be a leader on and off the ice.”

Daoust, 26, is one of the more decorated rookies in league history and is one of the leaders that head coach Dany Brunet is looking towards after the Canadiennes lost three of the most experienced players in CWHL history to retirement before the season started.

“It’s a reality. A lot of good veterans with good character and experience left,” he said. “They are difficult to replace, but luckily we have players coming in with leadership with [Marie-Philip Poulin and Daoust], among others.”

With the Canadiennes having eight defenders fighting for spots, and since they were down to 10 forwards with Ann-Sophie Bettez, Hilary Knight and Poulin not dressed for the game, the team needed two defenders to play forward.

At the team’s training camp on Saturday afternoon, Erin Ambrose and Lauriane Rougeau stayed on the ice after practice working on one timers from the goal crease all while trying to get their coach’s attention.

On Sunday, both Ambrose and Rougeau played forward on a line with rookie Maude Gélinas.

“Rougeau and I were just doing it to get Dany to have the confidence in us so I guess it worked,” Ambrose said.

Each member of the line scored a goal, and Ambrose and Gélinas both added two assists.

“I think that might be the one and only time this year,” Ambrose said with a laugh about the forward experience.

Ambrose and Rougeau are going to be two of the mainstays on the Canadiennes blue line this season, so they didn’t need to be evaluated in that spot. Both players coach at Concordia, who was their opponent on Sunday.

“It was a lot of fun, I work with the girls most of the week,” Ambrose said. “It was good I didn’t have to play defence because they would have called me out on all the things I did wrong,” she joked.

Of the eight defenders in camp, four are pure CWHL rookies drafted this past August. The only defenders with previous CWHL experience in camp other than Rougeau and Ambrose are Melanie Desrochers and Sophie Brault.

“[I want to bring] a lot of leadership. That’s something I try to bring where ever I go,” Ambrose said. “That doesn’t change and I want to lead by example and get better every day. We have the opportunity to do something special here [...] Going through the forward lines, it’s pretty nice so I’m excited for this year.”

One of the rookies on defence, Marie-Joëlle Allard had a goal and an assist against the team she played for last year, and the team her sister Audrey-Anne plays on. Geneviève Bannon, Montreal’s 2018 first-round pick had the other goal. Jillian Saulnier had an assist in her first game in a Canadiennes uniform.

Maude Nicol and Marie-Soleil Deschênes split the game for Montreal. Nicol allowed the only goal of the game with 43 seconds left in the first period. Concordia led 1-0 after the first 20 minutes.

Canadiennes lineup vs Concordia - September 23

Canadiennes Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Jillian Saulnier 16- Sarah Lefort 15- Mélodie Daoust
76- Karell Emard 19- Katia Clement-Heydra 9- Kim Deschênes
Olivia Atkinson 78- Tracy-Ann Lavigne Geneviève Bannon
14- Erin Ambrose Maude Gélinas 5- Lauriane Rougeau

Canadiennes Defence

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
17- Melanie Desrochers Catherine Daoust
Marie-Joëlle Allard Taylor Willard
Emma Martin 23- Sophie Brault

Canadiennes Goaltenders

Maude Nicol
35- Marie-Soleil Deschênes

Did not dress: Ann-Sophie Bettez, Marie-Philip Poulin, Hilary Knight, Emerance Maschmeyer, Geneviève Lacasse

The team has two more pre-season games. On October 4, they play the Université de Montréal at CEPSUM and on October 5, they host the McGill Martlets at the Michel Normandin Arena. Both games start at 7:30 p.m.

Their regular season gets underway October 13 at Place Bell as they take on the Calgary Inferno.