Montreal 7, Vanke 3: Les Canadiennes Handle Rays in Team’s First-Ever Meeting

Concordia Alum Tracy-Ann Lavigne Nets First CWHL Goal in Win

Les Canadiennes beat the Vanke Rays in their first ever meeting on Saturday. Photo Elisa Barbier
Trace-Ann Lavigne (left) scored her first professional goal on Saturday against the Vanke Rays. Photo Elisa Barbier

Goals came early and often for Les Canadiennes de Montréal in their thrilling 7-3 win over the Vanke Rays Saturday night in front of a boisterous and capacity crowd at Arena Michel Normandin.

Montreal stormed out to a 5-0 lead in the first period, ultimately tacking on two more markers in the early goings of the second frame to stretch their advantage to what would prove to be an insurmountable 7-0 lead.

“We had a good start,” said Les Canadiennes head coach Dany Brunet. “We got an early lead and had all the momentum. We controlled all areas of the game.”

“We talked about having a huge start and it happened,” said Canadiennes forward Katia Clement-Heydra, who scored the opening tallies of both the first and second periods for Montreal. “We weren’t expecting it to be that much but we are really happy about it.”

Les Canadiennes let the Rays back into the hockey game, giving up three unanswered goals in the back half of the middle frame. The team was able to right the ship in the third, however, holding Vanke to only one shot on goal in the entire third period.

“There was a drop in intensity in the second period,” said Brunet. “There was structural issues and indiscipline by our group. Our opponent was able to capitalize. We were able to get things back on track in the third.”

“We always start off strong and then we have a little setback,” said Les Canadiennes rookie Tracy-Ann Lavigne. “We need to fix this problem. We have to stay consistent and play the way we are able to play and we will be fine.”

It was a big night for Lavigne, who connected for her first goal as a member of Les Canadiennes in the late stages of the first period. The puck bounced high in the air before finding its way behind Rays netminder Elaine Chuli. Although not the most conventional of goals, it was one Lavigne was glad to accept.

“It was messy, but when I saw it fall back down behind, I was ready to hit it back there if it wasn’t going to go in,” said a relieved Lavigne after the game, still clutching her first goal puck in her hands. “A goal is a goal at the end of the day. I was super pumped about it.”

What made the goal all the more special for Lavigne was that it was scored with her mother, boyfriend, and many former Concordia Stingers teammates and coaches in attendance. She was named the third star of the game.

Lavigne’s goal was the fourth of five Les Canadiennes goals scored in the opening period. Clement-Heydra got the ball rolling for Montreal, firing a clean shot from the slot on a delayed penalty call for Vanke.

Caroline Ouellete (13) registered a point in her first CWHL action since March. Photo Elisa Barbier
Under a minute later, Emmanuelle Blais beat Chuli five-hole off of a pass from Caroline Ouellette, who made her much-anticipated return to Les Canadiennes’ lineup after giving birth to daughter Liv in November.

Two minutes later, Karell Emard scored her fifth goal of the season, sending an innocent-looking shot from the corner on net that founds its way through. Canadiennes captain Ann-Sophie Bettez collected her first of three helpers on the night on the play.

After Lavigne’s goal gave Montreal a 4-0 lead, it was Kayla Tutino who scored a buzzer-beater goal with just three seconds remaining in the period.

Vanke made a goaltending change to start the second period, replacing Chuli with backup Tianyi Zhang. It did little to stop the offensive onslaught. Clement-Heydra scored her second of the game and seventh of the season just 1:27 into the period, followed by Bettez’s team-leading 14th goal of the year to put Les Canadiennes up by a touchdown.

The Rays got goals from Xin He, Emily Janiga and Hanna Bunton to cut the deficit to four, but it was too little too late.

“We made a statement tonight,” said Lavigne. “Even though they have great players on the other team and they are physical, we are able to play with them and win our battles against them.”

Les Canadiennes will renew hostilities with the Rays at 1:30 PM on Sunday, followed by a third and final game in what is being billed as the “Super Series” on Tuesday at 7:30 PM. Both games are at the Claude Robillard Sports Complex’s Arena Michel Normandin.