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Furious comeback sees Montreal make the final in pro women’s hockey’s return to the city

Down 2-0, they scored five straight goals to meet Minnesota in the final.

PWHPA / Arianne Bergeron

Jessie Eldridge has been with the Montreal chapter of the Professional Women’s Hockey Player’s Association (PWHPA) since 2019 but has only played one home game in Montreal.

On Saturday evening, she scored three times as Montreal (Team Harvey’s) overcame an early 2-0 deficit to beat Calgary (Team Scotiabank) 5-2 to move into Sunday’s final.

Saturday’s game was the first pro women’s hockey game in the city in 769 days, and the home crowd was a bit worried early on as they fell behind 2-0 when Kaitlin Willoughby and Hanna Bunton scored in the first seven minutes of the game.

Eldridge scored her first goal of the game, putting a rebound from in close past Calgary goaltender Kelsey Roberts to make the score 2-1.

Montreal continued to push in the second period. Kristin O’Neill had a couple of great scoring chances, but they struggled to get the equalizer. Then, in the final minute, they finally tied the game.

Tracy-Ann Lavigne made a beautiful pass to Catherine Dubois, who made an excellent move for a highlight goal with only 17 seconds remaining.

A Quebec City native, Dubois played her first professional game in her home province two years after graduating from the University of Montreal.

“It was such a good feeling,” she said. “We were at home; our fans and our family were able to watch us. It’s the first time in two years that my family has been able to watch me play. I play with such great teammates that put the puck on the tape. I had an easy goal... the pass was so unbelievable.”

Calgary started the third period off strong, but Marie-Soleil Deschênes continued her strong play this season with two big saves to keep the game tied. That gave Montreal enough time to take their first lead when Eldridge scored her second of the game.

Just three and a half minutes later, Melanie Desrochers extended the lead to 4-2 when she blasted a shot from the point past Roberts.

Eldridge completed her hat trick when she took a pass from Ann-Sophie Bettez and fired it in.

The hat trick resulted in fans throwing hats on the ice, including one from Marie-Philip Poulin, who was watching the game.

“I didn’t see it, but I heard about it when I was in the [penalty box],” Eldridge said. “That’s awesome.”

The weekend marked the first games in Montreal in over two years and the first games at the newly renovated Verdun Auditorium, which hosts the Centre 21.02, the only high-performance centre of excellence for women’s hockey in the country. It is the real home for women’s hockey in the city and provides players with a lot of facilities, including a permanent locker room where they can store their equipment.

“It’s a special weekend to play in this rink for the first time,” she said. “Madame Sauvageau has put in so much work. We were talking on our way over here about how weird it is to be able to play here together as a group. It’s a really cool building. It has a lot of character. We’ve been able to practice here for the last two years but it’s different when you walk into the locker room and see your game jersey as a team. It’s really special.”

They will now face Minnesota (Team Adidas) in the final after Minnesota defeated Boston (Team Bauer) in the first semi-final 7-1. Victoria Bach had two goals in the win.

The final is scheduled for 3:30 Sunday afternoon at the Verdun Auditorium. Boston and Calgary will play the third-place game at 12:30. The games will be streamed on CBC Sports and Radio-Canada worldwide.