Thursday, 25 February 2016

Canadiennes de Montreal blowout Boston in 14-0 triumph

In a game that took less than two hours to complete, 17 scorers from Les Canadennes de Montreal contributed at least one point as the Boston Blades were pummelled in a 14-0 whitewash. Prevailing by the largest margin of victory by any CWHL team all season, it was another exciting moment in a season filled with many of them for Montreal.
The game-winning goal would be scored at the 5:05 mark of the first as Caroline Ouellette scored on Genevieve Lacasse, who both played together for Canada at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. With Noemie Marin (who earned her 200th career point earlier this season) and Sophie Brault earning the assists, the hometown fans on-hand at Centre Etienne Desmarteau (nor the Blades for that matter) could not have foreseen the onslaught to come.
Despite ten more minutes of scoreless play in the first, the Blades were unable to mount an offensive attack, managing a meagre two shots in the entire period. First-year player Alyssa Sherrard and Ottawa-native Chelsey Saunders would assist on a goal by Emilie Bocchia at the 15:24 mark for the 2-0 lead.
Boston’s woes would continue as team captain Tara Watchorn was called for body checking at 17:57, providing the home team with the first power play opportunity of the game. Only 28 seconds into the power play, Montreal capitalized as Marie-Philip Poulin, the All-Star Game MVP added to a growing lead. As a side note, Ann-Sophie Bettez and Julie Chu, who balances playing with a coaching role at Concordia University, both earned the assists, as nine different Canadiennes registered a point in the first period.
Facing 22 shots in the first, Lacasse continued to provide a valiant performance. Despite only one win all season, Lacasse makes a strong case for the CWHL’s Goaltender of the Year Award as she has faced more shots than any other goaltender in league play, while maintaining a strong standard of leadership for a beleaguered Boston squad. Allowing only two goals in the second stanza, Lacasse was working tirelessly to try and instill confidence in her teammates, as they could only muster two shots on net for the second straight period.
Early in the third period, things fell apart very quickly for Boston as Les Canadiennes sizzled with three goals in just 43 seconds. Team captain Cathy Chartrand would start the hot streak as Poulin and Bettez logged the assists. Bettez would log her second goal of the game 31 seconds later as the crowd roared in approval. A mere 12 seconds later, Leslie Oles would score, as Jordanna Peroff and Lauriane Rougeau logged the assists. Each would log their first points of the game as Les Canadiennes roared to a commanding (and insurmounmtable) 8-0 advantage.
After the three-goal debacle, a tired and dejected Lacasse was removed from the game. Despite such disappointment, Lacasse was treated to a round of applause by the appreciative fans, as her 36 saves were a game-high. Replaced by goaltender Amanda Cariddi, making only her third CWHL appearance, it would not stop the flood to follow. 27 seconds after replacing Lacasse, Cariddi allowed a goal to long-time Montreal veteran Emmanuelle Blais.
By the 4:33 mark, Montreal extended their lead to an overwhelming 10-0 mark, as Bettez got the hat trick. With Deschenes and Poulin earning the assists, it was part of a unique subplot for the franchise. Of note, all three skaters, plus Ouellette were among the top four leading scorers in league play. With each looking to finish the season with the scoring title, it added a unique aspect to the contest.
While Cariddi settled down after Bettez’ goal, trying her best to maintain her composure in such a difficult situation, Boston continued to struggle on the offensive side of the game. Such struggles would result in Les Canadiennes exploiting such weaknesses as a pair of goals was scored less than 30 seconds apart. Julie Chu would become the eighth different Montreal skater to score a goal in the contest, beating Cariddi at the 7:26 mark. Only 27 seconds later, Kim Deschenes would score, with Bettez and Poulin also adding to their own season point totals with the assists. Some relief would follow for Boston as Leslie Oles was called for a tripping penalty. Despite their best efforts, opposing goaltender Charline Labonte nullified the Boston power play with little pressure.
Noemie Marin would score the last two goals of the game with the first coming at 11:28 and the last seven and a half minutes later as the Blades were outshot in the third by a 21-5 margin. Overall, Montreal had peppered Lacasse and Cariddi with 59 shots, compared to 9 for the visitors as Labonte earned her league best sixth shutout.
Of note, Bettez, Chu, Marin and Ouellette would each log at least one point in each period of play. Bettez was recognized as the First Star of the Game, while Second Star honors were bestowed upon Noemie Marin. It was Bocchia who would garner Third Star honors. Chu would also lead all players with a plus/minus rating of +7. Meanwhile, Boston had eight players suffer a rating of -5 or worse, with Maggie DiMasi on the ice for nine goals, while Sarah Duncan endured a -7.
The following day, both teams took to the ice once again to close out the season with Montreal prevailing easily once again by a 10-1 mark, for a cumulative two-game score of 24-1. As the Clarkson Cup playoffs approach, will Montreal still have any firepower left? While the squad should easily dispose of their first round opponents, the Toronto Furies, the heartbreak of two Clarkson Cup finals losses (2013, 2015) definitely haunts the franchise.
Ironically, both of those losses were suffered at the hands of the Boston Blades, who suffered the biggest single season collapse in CWHL history, and perhaps all modern women’s hockey. While the crash was attributed to a large migration of players to another league, along with the loss of its general manager and coach, several weaknesses, including a lack of scoring and chemistry were brutally exposed.
While it was understandable that Boston would not be as competitive this season, its one win season matches the Burlington Barracudas mark for futility, having won once during the 2011-12 campaign. With rumors that Watchorn may suit up for one of the teams in the Greater Toronto Area next season (she was raised east of Toronto in Newcastle), the future of the franchise is one that seriously warrants discussion. Taking into account that the Barracudas were contracted after their disastrous season, the Blades may endure a difficult struggle to attract top talent should there be a next season.  

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