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 to do so, the net was disallowed. Interference on the goalkeeper. A few moments later, Amanda Pelkey shattered Montreal’s dreams, allowing Boston to fly away with victory.
But far from being discouraged, the supporters quickly overcame their disappointment to cheer their heroines with enthusiasm. They greeted them properly, grouped together in the center of the ice rink, sticks in the air.
“[This 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.
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 an overtime defeat”.
“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 [the one match]. […] They also went through trials. They waited with hope. And tonight, it finally came true. It was an incredible match, but that moment right before the match started, I will never forget it. »
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. »
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.
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 very nice 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.
“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 [manage our emotions]. 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.
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 played out three against three.
“We think we deserved better today,” Cheverie said. But these games will be close, every one 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.
“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. »