Women’s hockey | “It’s something big that we’re starting”

All in all, the players just paraded one by one to a standing ovation from the crowd. Nothing unusual for a local opening match. But this ovation, in fact, was particularly felt. Warm. Moved. Like what this first local match represented for the Montrealers of the LPHF, a 3-2 defeat in overtime against the Bostonians at the Verdun Auditorium.

On this historic Saturday afternoon, the decibels particularly rose when captain Marie-Philip Poulin appeared on the ice to join her teammates. But never more so than when “Pou” thought he would give his team victory with a goal at the start of the extra period.

The story was perfect, almost written beforehand… but no. Despite candid calls from the crowd who chanted “GOAL, GOAL, GOAL” to encourage the referees in this direction, the net was refused. Interference on the goalkeeper. Moments later, Amanda Pelkey ​​shattered Montreal’s dreams, allowing Boston to fly away with victory.


Amanda Pelkey ​​(16) scored in overtime against goalkeeper Ann-Renée Desbiens.

But far from being discouraged, the supporters quickly overcame their disappointment to cheer their heroines with enthusiasm. They greeted them properly, grouped in the center of the ice rink, sticks in the air.

“ [Cette ovation] was very special, I won’t lie to you,” commented a smiling Marie-Philip Poulin after the meeting.

“It says a lot when people in the stands give you a standing ovation even when you lose,” she added. You can win and have their support, but when you lose and the world cheers for you, in Montreal, it’s really special. »

For Laura Stacey, who has lived in Montreal for several years, the “moment” represented by this match is worth “much more than a goal or a defeat in overtime”.

“The young girls, the young boys and all the fans in the stands have waited so long for this,” emphasizes the Ontarian. It’s so much bigger than [le seul match]. […] They also went through hardships. They waited with hope. And tonight, it finally came true. It was an incredible match, but that moment right before the match started, I’ll never forget it. »


France St-Louis, Caroline Ouellette, her daughters Tessa and Liv, Danièle Sauvageau, Kim St-Pierre and Danielle Goyette made the first puck drop in the presence of captains Hilary Knight (21) and Marie-Philip Poulin (29).

Caroline Ouellette, Kim St-Pierre, France St-Louis and Danielle Goyette, legends of Quebec and Canadian women’s hockey, took part in the ceremonial puck drop. Their reception by the crowd was just as warm as for the players.

“These are women who have built so much for hockey across Canada,” assured Poulin. For me, they are mentors, role models. I had a tear in my eye when I saw them get on the ice. »

“Too excited”

The first period was complicated for Montreal, as it is for all local teams at the start of the first LPHF season. Nervousness, emotions, butterflies: the local players did not manage to get out of their zone, let alone build their game in the attacking third. Two penalties imposed in quick succession on Dominika Lásková did not help in this regard either.


Dominika Lásková

Then came the second period. Barely 33 seconds had passed when Erin Ambrose unleashed all the energy the Montreal crowd had in the bank. Thirty-one seconds later, the party was well and truly underway. Laura Stacey made it 2-0 on a beautiful shot from the top of the slot.

But what makes this league interesting in its infancy is the balanced level of play on both sides. Boston responded three minutes later, courtesy of Taylor Girard. Interesting feature: this goal was scored while the visitors were shorthanded, which allowed Emily Brown to leave the penalty box, under a new LPHF rule. By scoring this goal, we could say that Girard allowed Brown to escape from prison.


The Montreal team lost in overtime.

“This new rule is exciting for the players,” said Montreal head coach Kori Cheverie. They can take pride in having scored shorthanded. Today, our message to the players was that we had to [gérer nos émotions]. After our second goal, maybe we got too excited. »

Midway through the second, Hannah Brandt tied the score for the Massachusetts team. Which confirmed what we could see: once the nervousness at the start of the match had passed, he was playing tough hockey in Verdun.


Marie-Philip Poulin

The trend was confirmed in the third period. It was tense. Intense. When Boston goalie Aerin Frankel finally had a break on her side, Ann-Renée Desbiens had to stand guard. Fortunately for Montreal, this is what the Great Wall of Charlevoix does best.

It was finally Amanda Pelkey ​​who found the fault at the end of a fast game which unfolded three against three.

“We think we deserved better today,” Cheverie said. But these games will be close, each of them feels like a gold medal game or a game 7. We’re going to have to work on that. »

There was a full house in the stands, but also among the media. Around 100 members of the journalistic community were accredited at the Verdun Auditorium. Proof that interest in the LPHF, at least in its early stages, is undeniable.

“I thank you very much, it’s remarkable,” noted Marie-Philip Poulin. It’s something big that we’re starting, and we hope to continue like this. »


Jayna Hefford, LPHF vice-president of hockey operations

“No press” for branding

Not surprisingly, the media and fan attention to the LPHF “exceeds the expectations” of Jayna Hefford, vice-president of hockey operations for the league.

“We know that this is only the beginning, that there is still a lot of work to do,” she told the many journalists present a little over an hour before the meeting. We were aware that there was a demand for women’s sport and that if we did a good job, we would attract that kind of attention. Now we have to make sure we deserve everyone’s attention. »

For those wondering, Hefford said “there’s no rush” at the LPHF to launch logos and team names.

“We don’t want to make a mistake,” she said. There are several things we can do urgently, but this doesn’t seem to be one of them. I don’t think it has an impact on the way the players play, the product on the ice or the way the fans feel. I honestly think this is a great opportunity for the league to build its brand. »

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