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Women’s hockey notebook: A ray of Sunshine, a long road back, and a dominant trip to Finland

The PWHPA and Canadian national team were in action this weekend.

Heather Pollock / PWHPA

Between her time with Les Canadiennes in the CWHL and the Montreal region of the PWHPA (now known as Team Harvey’s), Marie-Soleil Deschênes is in her fifth season. Up until this weekend, she had played five regular season or PWHPA Dream Gap Tour games.

Such is life as the team’s third — or even fourth — goaltender. In her years with the team, she has played behind current or former Canadian national team members Geneviève Lacasse, Ann-Renée Desbiens, and Emerance Maschmeyer, and sometimes all three at the same time.

With the Olympics this year, Desbiens and Maschmeyer are centralized, leaving the door open for more playing time for Deschênes. This weekend, the 2021-22 Secret Dream Gap Tour opened in Truro, Nova Scotia, and Deschênes, known as Sunshine to her teammates, shined bright.

In the two games, she stopped 48 of the 50 total shots she faced, and allowed one goal in the shootout in a 2-1 loss in the championship game against Team Scotiabank from Calgary. She made 19 saves in a 4-1 win over Toronto’s Team Sonnet in the semi-final.

“She brings the attitude and the effort every single practice and every game that she stepped in, she performs like she did tonight,” said Montreal forward Karell Emard after Friday’s opening game. “She is all out every single time we step onto the ice and this is her year where she gets to showcase her skill set. For the goalies who have been there with her, she seems to be a perfect training partner. She pushes us, we’re really happy that she had the game that she did. Talk about dedication, and determination, she’s here now and giving us a chance to win.”

In her five CWHL games, she had a 5-0 record with three career shutouts — in her first three starts. She has never allowed more than one goal in any of her starts.

“She’s unbelievable,” said Maschmeyer back in 2018, her second season on the team. “She worked so hard ... I see her at practice and how hard she works. And I appreciate it so much. She pushes me every single day.”

‘Talk about a comeback’

If Deschênes was a story of perseverance and finally getting a chance to shine, Ann-Sophie Bettez is a story of hard work to get back to dominance.

The last time Bettez played a game, she left with a lower body injury. When Montreal was celebrating their Secret Cup win at the end of May, Bettez was being helped around the ice by a teammate. After months of recovery, Bettez returned to game action at the Dream Gap Tour stop in Truro, and left the event as its leading scorer with three points.

“It was a very challenging path after my injury,” Bettez said. “It’s never easy to get injured. A few weeks is OK, but a few months takes forever. Even two weeks ago, I wasn’t sure if I would be playing or coaching, but one thing was for sure is that I wanted to be a part of this event.”

What makes her performance even more spectacular is that they were her first games since the injury. Most of the rest of the Montreal team has played exhibition games against university teams, but Bettez was still in recovery mode at that point.

“Talk about a comeback, eh?” said Emard about Bettez. “The girl gets hurt last year during the showcase, works all summer long, gets back practicing with us in a [non-contact jersey] and then gets ready for the showcase and didn’t even get to play a game prior to this... Then she comes here, finds the net like she usually does, we still see the speed... She’s a true competitor and a true leader.”

Bettez and Emard go back to their days at Dawson College in CEGEP, where they played together — often as linemates — over 15 years ago.

“Her and I are probably the oldest players at this point,” Emard said, laughing. “We’ve played together for a long time and seeing her getting healthy and getting her speed and confidence back has been awesome to witness. You can see her smile, you can see she wants to be here and it’s a great journey for her.”

A Finnish sweep

Team Canada, fresh off of their World Championship gold medal in August, went to Finland where they faced off against their rivals for three games. They won all three games, outscoring the hosts by a score of 17-3.

Maschmeyer (4-2 win on Thursday) and Desbiens (5-1 win on Sunday) each started a game. Kristen Campbell who earned the shutout in her first senior game for Canada in their 8-0 win on Saturday.

Marie-Philip Poulin had three goals and an assist in the three games, while Mélodie Daoust had two goals and two assists in two games as she sat out Sunday’s win.

Canada’s next international games will be November 21 and 23 when they host the United States in Kingston and Ottawa respectively in the next leg of the Rivalry Series. Canada leads the nine-game series 2-0.

The games will be used as part of the evaluation for the teams’ Olympic rosters.