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PWHPA: Bettez, Leslie lead Montreal to championship showdown vs. Toronto

A seven-goal outburst has Montreal in Sunday’s final.

Heather Pollock / PWHPA

Ann-Sophie Bettez had three goals and Rebecca Leslie had two goals and an assist as Montreal (Team Harvey’s) defeated Boston (Team Bauer) 7-2 in Saturday’s semifinal of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association’s Sonnet Showcase at the Nepean Sportsplex.

The win will see Montreal face Toronto (Team Sonnet) in Sunday’s championship game. Toronto defeated Minnesota 4-3 in overtime. The game will be held at 11:00 a.m. Eastern and will be broadcast on Sportsnet One, as well as Sportsnet’s YouTube channel and TikTok account.

Bettez opened the scoring midway through the first period. After a shot was blocked in front, she pounced on the loose puck and fired a turnaround wrist shot past Boston goaltender Brittany Ott.

Boston tied the game late in the first. Bailey Larson caused a turnover in the neutral zone, and fed Catherine Quirion on a break, who made no mistake beating Marie-Soleil Deschênes.

Early in second period, Montreal had a 30 second five-on-three power play, but were unable to generate offence. They continued to rack up chances on Ott. Leslie had a shorthanded chance with 13:45 left that saved by Ott after a pass from Kristin O’Neill. Sarah Lefort was stopped on a snap shot from the left circle, and Montreal’s Karell Emard couldn’t beat Ott on a three-on-one chance.

In all, Ott made 38 saves in the loss.

Montreal finally broke through and retook the lead with under four minutes left in the second period. Leslie converted a give-and-go with O’Neill, who was fresh off of her stint on the Canadian Olympic team taxi squad in Beijing.

It was a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. About a minute after Leslie’s first goal, Deschênes made a huge save to keep the lead. The Montreal goaltender has been with the team for years, mostly as the third or even fourth goaltender. With Ann-Renée Desbiens and Emerance Maschmeyer at the Olympics, and Geneviève Lacasse recovering from various injuries, she has had an extended run as the team’s top goaltender. She had 32 saves in the win.

Shortly after Deschênes’s save, on a power play, O’Neill scored to extend Montreal’s lead to 3-1, which is how the teams entered the second intermission.

The third period started with a flurry of goals. Boston’s Samantha Cogan scored just 1:30 into the third period, when she tipped a point shot past Deschênes to make it 3-2. That was as close as Team Bauer would come, however.

Thirty-nine seconds after Cogan’s goal, Lefort beat Ott after a net drive to restore Montreal’s two-goal lead. Less than two minutes later, Leslie scored her second of the game on a two-on-one with Kim Deschênes.

Leslie is from Ottawa, and still lives in the city. Since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in Quebec, she travels into Montreal at least once a week to practice with the team at the Verdun Auditorium with the Centre 21.02. Up until recently, the Montreal team was forced to practice with a maximum of two players on the ice at a time, which meant Leslie had to work with skills coaches and other teams in Ottawa to prepare for the showcase.

“It’s definitely been fun to be back in Ottawa,” Leslie said. “I haven’t played here since high school.”

“We were just excited to be here and be able to play again,” said Bettez. “It was a hard few months to not even be able to even practice. Just the fact that we were able to practice last week for the first time as a team, the energy was so high and today we brought that same energy.”

Bettez scored her second of the game midway through the period, and completed the hat trick in the game’s final minute, converting a perfect pass from Leslie with an even better forehand-backhand move.


Lineup

Montreal had some reinforcements from the first PWHPA showcase of the season in Truro, Nova Scotia in November. Jessie Eldridge was centralized with Team Canada through the Rivalry Series, and Kristin O’Neill and Jaime Bourbonnais were both on Canada’s Olympic taxi squad. CWHL veteran forward Emmanuelle Blais is not listed on the roster, but is playing as well.

In that showcase, they defeated Toronto 4-1 in the semi-final but lost the championship game to Calgary 2-1 in a shootout.

The team pulled out of December’s Toronto showcase due to COVID-19.