MONTREAL - There's a gust of fresh air flowing through Les Canadiennes this season, after Montreal's contingent in the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) saw several of its veterans depart while other young sensations came onto the scene.
The CWHL's winningest team with four League titles, Les Canadiennes lost the services of defensemen Cathy Chartrand, Cassandra Poudrier, Laurence Beaulieu, and Natalie Barrette, as well as goalie Catherine Herron and forwards Noemie Marin, Emmanuelle Blais, and Kayla Tutino, who all recently announced their retirement from pro hockey.
"A new era has begun with Les Canadiennes. The last few seasons, we recruited an influx of of talented players to provide depth at every position to prepare for the retirement of several veterans and important leaders," outlined general manager Meg Hewings. "We'd like to build on our winning culture and work with this group of athletes to help grow our sport."
That said, Dany Brunet's troops will still be counting on the return of 12 veterans as well as that of their captain, Marie-Philip Poulin, who missed last season during a centralization year ahead of the 2018 Olympics.
Even more experience
The Canadiennes' general manager was active on the trade market, notably picking up American superstar Hilary Knight, who was acquired at the end of last season. The 29-year-old forward played in the team's final game of 2017-18 as well as their two playoff contests.
Knight has an impressive resume on the international scene with Team USA. In 45 games at the World Championship, she's collected 63 points (36G, 27A). She's also recorded 17 points in 15 games at the Olympics, leading the Americans to a gold-medal finish in 2018.
The Montreal club will also benefit from the additions of Jillian Saulnier, Geneviève Lacasse and Melodie Daoust. The 2018-19 season gives Daoust, Les Canadiennes' first-round pick in 2017, the chance to make her debut with her childhood team.
"It's really an honor to get to wear the Les Canadiennes logo," she shared. "It's an amazing feeling for a girl like me who dreamed of one day wearing that jersey. Now, we have to bring the Clarkson Cup back to Montreal."
Taking their revenge
The squad will be looking to exact vengeance on the Markham Thunder, who beat them in two games in the playoffs on their way to the League championship last season. The 2017-18 playoffs marked the first time Les Canadiennes hadn't reached the Clarkson Cup final since 2014, having played for the ultimate prize in six of the last seven seasons.
"We've still got a bitter taste in our mouths from last season," admitted forward Ann-Sophie Bettez. "For sure, we have some new players on the team and we want to bring some good energy and show that we're the best team on the ice."
Les Canadiennes will play seven games at Place Bell in Laval this season. They'll also be headed all the way to China to face the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays - the only team in the league based outside of North America - on December 12, 14, and 15.
Les Canadiennes play a pair of games against the Markham Thunder this weekend. Click here to get tickets.