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Les Canadiennes’ first line shines in weekend sweep of Toronto

Marie-Philip Poulin, Ann-Sophie Bettez, and Jill Saulnier combine for six goals in the two games.

Shanna Martin / CWHL

Marie-Philip Poulin will likely never admit that she’s the best women’s hockey player in the world. She’s just not one to assume credit for anything.

But, as they say, actions speak louder than words. And when the Sportsnet and RDS cameras were rolling this weekend as Les Canadiennes won two games against the Toronto Furies at Complexe Bell in Brossard, Poulin had four goals, two assists and may very well have made the play of the year just six days into 2019. When the lights are brightest, Poulin’s at her best.

Saturday: W 3-1

On a game broadcast nationwide on Sportsnet, Poulin had a natural hat trick in Montreal’s 3-1 win.

She opened the scoring by breaking through the Toronto defence after a collision at the blue line opened up space. She beat Toronto goaltender Shea Tiley with her first of three beautiful goals on the day.

Less than two minutes later, Montreal would get a power play, and Poulin would work a give and go with Ann-Sophie Bettez to make it a 2-0 game.

Poulin would pop another bottle just 33 seconds into the third period when she would again walk into the slot and take a Bettez pass and beat Tiley.

Toronto would get on the board themselves and break Emerance Maschmeyer’s shutout with just under six minutes remaining. Carolyne Prevost, who started her career in Montreal and was playing her first games back after competing in a CrossFit competition in Dubai, was the scorer. It was her 49th career goal, and Toronto’s first goal in three games against Montreal and Maschmeyer.

Sunday: W 6-3

Les Canadiennes picked up where they left off on Saturday with a goal just 3:42 into the game when Hilary Knight potted home a rebound on an Erin Ambrose shot to beat Toronto goaltender Elaine Chuli who got the start.

Five and a half minutes later was the play of the year candidate I alluded to earlier. Poulin takes the puck in the offensive zone, and somehow contorts herself and the puck through three defenders before feeding the puck through a Furies’ defender’s legs right to Saulnier’s backhand who makes no mistake.

Les Canadiennes would keep it going in the second period, scoring three more goals. Geneviève Bannon would create a turnover at the Toronto blueline and streak in on a two-on-one with Karell Emard. Bannon would elect to shoot, and hit the wide corner on Chuli to make it 3-0.

The line of Bannon, Emard and Kim Deschênes played their first game together and were dangerous in both games, creating chances even when they weren’t scoring.

“I think it’s huge [if we can contribute],” Emard said. “It’s good for the team. When we can take some pressure off of their shoulders and beat the other team’s third line or second line, it’s a win-win for everyone. We take pride in stepping up our game and playing like them. We like to contribute, we like to shut down other lines and be responsible all over the ice.”

Emard was playing centre on the line for one of the first times in her CWHL career. She did have some appearances in the middle, but has mainly played wing since her rookie year when she played defence. Emard would score a goal of her own when she tipped a Saulnier shot past Chuli to make it 4-1.

Emard said that it’s been since her sophomore year in college around 2009-10 that she last played centre, but that she played it her entire career up to that point.

Sarah Nurse was one of the more dangerous Furies forwards throughout the weekend and scored her team’s first goal of the game when she potted home a loose puck past Maschmeyer to make it 3-1.

Four minutes after Emard made it 4-1, Bettez scored a goal on a play that showed the chemistry the first line has. Poulin started the play and passed it to Saulnier who made no mistake on the pass to Bettez who had a wide open net. The play was another display of the skill the line has.

“It’s hard to not get chemistry with two players like that,” Saulnier said. “They are two of the best in the world so it’s definitely a privilege and some games that I’ve really enjoyed.”

The Furies would make it close in the third period, scoring two goals in 63 seconds. Jess Vella scored the first of the two with just under six minutes remaining. On the goal, Prevost got an assist and it was her 100th career CWHL point.

The second goal would come from Shannon Stewart, who scored her second goal of the season.

“I think we’ve tried to put more emphasis on the defensive side of the game and until that short period in the third it was pretty good so I think it’s going to continue,” coach Caroline Ouellette said.

“It will continue to be our focus and we have to be able to coach our best players to be just as good defensively and often it’s a question of details, of awareness and they know it. Hilary Knight and Marie-Philip Poulin spoke about it, that we have to take pride in it, and be better and play for 60 minutes so it’s even better when it comes from them.”

However, before the Furies could close the gap any close than 5-3, Poulin would score to make it 6-3.

Notes

  • Poulin and Bettez are in a scoring race for the CWHL lead, and are mirroring each other to the point that both have identical stat lines. Both have 15 goals and 17 assist in 17 games. There are 11 games remaining in the season, and the pair have a four point lead over Rebecca Johnston for the league lead. Johnston and the Calgary Inferno have played 18 games.
  • Caroline Ouellette coached Sunday’s game, but Danièle Sauvageau was behind the bench on Saturday after also coaching the team in China. On Sunday, Les Canadiennes had four coaches behind the bench.
  • Carlee Campbell played both games for the Furies just months after giving birth.
  • Sunday’s game was completely sold out, as fans had to line the outside of the rink to accommodate everyone. It was the team’s annual You Can Play game. The team’s next games are on January 12 and 13 against the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays. Saturday’s game will be at the Place Bell community rink and Sunday is at the Michel Normandin Arena at the Claude Robillard Sport Complex.