Written by: Safia Ahmad
Les Canadiennes capped 2018 on a high with three consecutive victories against the KRS Vanke Rays, where they became the first team in the CWHL to win all their games in China.
On Dec. 8, the team left Montreal’s chilly city to embark on a 30-hour long trip to a much warmer and humid Shenzhen, located in southeastern China. Most of the players knew what to expect after their first foray into China last season but shaking off the travel rust and jetlag in a few days remained no easy feats. According to star defender Erin Ambrose, the team was up for the challenge.
“Hearing from Markham and Worcester players who have already gone to China this season, we knew a little about what to expect this year compared to last year,” she said.
Les Canadiennes became the third team to visit the KRS Vanke Rays this season. Ranked second in the league with 24 points, Montreal captured 4-1, 5-1 and 6-3 wins over the Rays, who are fourth in the CWHL with 15 points. Both teams boasted talented rosters, composed of Olympians, national team players, talented veterans and several promising rookies. While the games didn’t turn out in the Rays’ favour, Ambrose knew Les Canadiennes needed to bring their A-game.
“They have some of the best talent in this league and that’s evident with how they’ve been doing,” said Ambrose. “I think we just stuck to our game plan and we have quite a bit of talent ourselves as well.”
Indeed, Les Canadiennes’ offence produced 15 goals over three games thanks to Ann-Sophie Bettez (6 goals), Marie-Philip Poulin (4 goals), Katia Clement-Heydra (2 G), Sarah Lefort (1 G), Erin Ambrose (1 G) and Kim Deschênes (1 G). Goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer shone between the pipes, only allowing five goals total against the Rays.
With important victories under their belt, Les Canadiennes also gained the opportunity to continue to build their chemistry and solidify their bond as a team off the ice as well. With the return of several Olympians and veterans, Montreal has welcomed many new players to the team, including offseason acquisitions Jillian Saulnier and Geneviève Lacasse and a cohort of promising rookies. Along with solid netminding duo Emerance Maschmeyer and Marie-Soleil Deschênes, the team is stacked from front to back.
Several players travelled with Les Canadiennes last season but it was a first-time trip for the rookies and Olympians like Poulin, who heard nothing but good things from her teammates.
“The girls told me that they had a blast last year,” said the captain. “It was nice to visit a new country and see a new perspective.”
Les Canadiennes will face the Toronto Furies on Jan. 5 at 12:30pm and Jan. 6 at 1:30pm at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, a municipality outside of Montreal. Saturday’s game will be featured on Sportsnet as part of the network’s first-ever CWHL Weekend. Sunday’s matchup will be the team’s annual You Can Play Game, an organization that works to ensure the safety and inclusion of all in sports, including LGBTQ athletes, coaches and fans. Prior to the game, fans can indulge in fun activities to support this initiative including a selfie competition and a silent auction.