Thursday, 7 January 2016

Kim Deschenes emerges as a key component of offensive attack for Les Canadiennes

In the aftermath of the Women’s Winter Classic, one that saw the CWHL’s Canadiennes de Montreal participate against the NWHL’s Boston Pride, an unprecedented first between the two leagues, it was Kim Deschenes who emerged as one of the game’s heroes. Contested at Gillette Stadium, the historic event made news throughout North America, as it signified the first-ever professional women’s hockey match staged outdoors.

With the world-class talent that comprises the roster of Les Canadiennes, speculation was rampant as to which player would score the first goal. Said talent for the bleu, blanc et rouge included the likes of living legend Caroline Ouellette, American-born Julie Chu, a hockey legend on both sides of the border, All-World goaltender Charline Labonte, and a pair of players under the age of 25 that have experienced Winter Games glory, Marie-Philip Poulin and Lauriane Rougeau.

During the first period (only two 15-minute periods were played), it was Deschenes that would make her mark, scoring on Boston Pride goaltender Brittany Ott. As a side note, Ott was not an unfamiliar face to Les Canadiennes. She was one of several members of the Pride who had spent the 2014-15 season competing with the CWHL’s Boston Blades, the team that bested the Montreal Stars in the Clarkson Cup finals.

Although Blake Bolden, the first African-American player to compete in the NWHL, would score the game-tying goal for the Pride, the feeling of history and accomplishment reflected a true victory that both teams could enjoy. For Deschenes, the opportunity to make history, by scoring the first-ever goal in an outdoor professional women’s hockey match only adds to a growing legacy.

Deschenes quickly came to the attention of Montreal hockey fans for her remarkable play and leadership with the Montreal Carabins of Canadian Interuniversity Sport. Serving as team captain in her final two seasons with the program (2012-14), she would propel the club to three consecutive appearances in the CIS national championship game, including the coveted title in 2013.

A first-round pick of the Montreal Stars in the 2014 CWHL Draft, becoming the first New Brunswick-born player to earn such distinction, Deschenes would undergo an all-too obligatory adjustment during the first couple weeks of her rookie season. Logging only two points in her first six games, she would make her CWHL debut on October 18, 2014.

Logging her first career CWHL point on October 24, recording an assist in a 2-1 win against Calgary, an impressive performance against the Toronto Furies culminated with a three-game scoring streak. The November 29 home contest against the Furies saw Deschenes not only score the first goal in her CWHL career, she would finish the game with a pair of goals, resulting in her first multi-goal effort.

In a stretch of ten games from January 11 to February 28, 2015, Deschenes would register at least one point in eight games, complemented by a four-game scoring streak. She would finish sixth in scoring among Montreal players with 14 points, while leading all rookies on the roster and finishing sixth overall among all CWHL rookies.

Compared to her rookie campaign, the 2015-16 season has proven to be a coming out party for Deschenes, one that has also seen her earn the prestige of competing in the second-ever CWHL All-Star Game. To be contested at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre on January 10, it shall mark a career highlight for Deschenes, as she shall be gracing NHL ice.

Statistically, she has proven to be a marvel for Les Canadiennes, briefly occupying a place among the top four scoring leaders in CWHL play. During the first 12 games of her sophomore season, she has already matched her previsouseasontotalof14points. Starting the season with a four-game scoring streak, consisting of four goals and four assists, she helped Les Canadiennes to a strong 4-0-0 start.

Deschenes has truly established herself as being worthy of a place in the pantheon of French Canadian women’s hockey heroes. Having enjoyed consistent success throughout every level of her career, she is blossoming into a key leader for Les Canadiennes, part of a growing legacy which is destined to strengthen should she manage to hoist the Clarkson Cup.

It would also provide her and teammate Casandra Dupuis with a special link to Les Carabins, truly bringing their careers full circle. Isabelle Leclaire, their head coach for five seasons, she coached the Montreal Stars to the inaugural Clarkson Cup title in 2009. With her CIS national title in 2013 (of which Deschenes played), she became the first and only coach to win both the Clarkson and the CIS national title.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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