(Ottawa) It was Ann’s night; Ann-Renée Desbiens blocked 26 of the 28 shots aimed at her while Ann-Sophie Bettez settled the debate in overtime. “This is one of the best moments of my career,” said the Quebec striker to the fifty media representatives who crowded into the press conference room after the match.
“You know: I’m getting closer to my last miles,” continued the 36-year-old Septilienne. Each time, I don’t know if it’s a last moment. Will there be more? I try to enjoy every moment as if it were the last and allow this team [to win]. »
That’s what she did Tuesday night, scoring with a wrist shot from the slot at the start of the overtime period.
Beyond the result, which was obviously the icing on the sundae for the Montreal team, this meeting was a celebration. The end of years of waiting. The culmination of months of work. The realization of the dreams of many young girls and women. The beginning of a new era. As it will undoubtedly be in the six inaugural matches of the circuit.
At 4:30 p.m., two and a half hours before the duel, a few people were already waiting outside Gate 2 of TD Place. “They still have an hour to wait! “, exclaimed a local employee to your La Presse representative.
Almost everywhere in the amphitheater filled with 8,318 spectators involved from start to finish, signs were held at arm’s length. More than 45 minutes before the match, dozens of young people had gathered in a U-shape in the stands, around the players’ entrance. “This is what our wildest dreams are made of! », We could read in English on a poster. The sentence was accompanied by a photo of a girls’ hockey team. Further up, on another sign: “Play like a girl! »
A few had put on their Team Canada jerseys for the occasion. Others, who came to encourage the Ottawa team, wore a Senators jersey, while many young girls, most of them very vocal, proudly displayed the colors of their hockey team.
“I think it shows how much women’s hockey has developed over the last 10 years,” Bettez said. It is the product of several years. Now, the fans are there to support us and we are here to put on a show on the ice. Today, I think it’s a great example of that. »
Marie-Philip Poulin and Brianne Jenner hugged each other after the official puck drop, but their friendship was quickly put on hold afterward. The game was robust and even though several players from both teams knew each other, they didn’t like each other Tuesday night.
“We have to expect robustness,” Bettez noted. We must know how to receive and how to give a check. It’s part of the show, and I think it’s cool. »
The Montreal team had a frantic pace at the start of the game, a pace that was quickly broken when Poulin, then Erin Ambrose and Tereza Vanisova, all went to the penalty box, one after the other in the first 10 minutes of play. Desbiens saved the day several times, closing the door to repeated attacks from the Ontarians. The cerberus was faithful to its title of Great Wall of Charlevoix: without it in the first period, the result would have been very different.
“She made the saves we needed,” said head coach Kori Cheverie. She calmed things down and made key saves. That’s why it was so important for us to offer him a contract from the start. We knew that if we were to play the style we wanted to play, she would have to save us on a few occasions. That’s what she did tonight. »
In the second period, a funny situation arose: Poulin was booed on Canadian territory. The Montreal captain was entitled to a penalty shot after Zoe Boyd tripped her on a breakaway. Captain Clutch did not score… to the great relief of the Ontario fans who were holding their breath.
“If she’s booed, that means she’s amazing! […] It’s a privilege to be booed, and I think she liked it,” Bettez said with a laugh. “That means she’s doing something right!” », added Desbiens.
The Ottawa team was the first to find the back of the net. A goal was initially denied to Makyla Grant-Mentis as the puck went under the net, lifted by Desbiens’ skate. A few minutes later, the crowd was able to celebrate when Haylay Scamurra scored with a powerful slap shot on the power play.
Claire Dalton responded almost immediately, scoring the first goal in the history of the Montreal franchise. Ottawa regained the lead in the third period, then Laura Stacey tied the score, forcing overtime. Bettez ended the debate after recovering a loose puck in the slot.
“We never gave up and we fought until the end,” summed up Bettez, paying tribute to the work of her teammates.