By David F. Pendrys
BOSTON, MA-The Boston Blades opened a two game set with Les Canadiennes de Montreal Saturday evening at Walter Brown Arena. The result was a 5-0 win for Montreal, but some positives as well. Defensively the Blades held the elite veteran team to two goals through two periods before period three lurked. For the Blades, Lauren Dahm remained a rock in net, making 26 saves on 31 shots, though even though the shot total was down from some of the games, the Canadiennes chances were of high quality. Her counterpart on the other end, Charline Labonte faced 11 shots and saved 11 for the shutout.
“She’s been terrific for us. No qualms about her play,” Blades Head Coach Brian McCloskey said about Dahm.
BU alums Kayla Tutino and Dakota Woodworth certainly tried to get some offense going and Tutino exploded out of the gate in the first seemingly involved in multiple events, but alas nothing went in. Captain Tara Watchorn, another former Terrier, made her first appearance as Blades Captain in the hallowed halls of Walter Brown as well as she lead the team’s defensive efforts.
Cassandra Poudrier opened the scoring at 6:24 with an assist from Noemie Marin and Caroline Ouellette. Ouellette had brought the puck down, dropped it for Marin, and she fed it across to Poudrier who had a great look in front. With a mighty swing the goal was hers. Less than a minute later, Ann-Sophie Bettez scored as well with an assist from another former Terrier, Marie-Philip Poulin.
The Blades held Montreal scoreless in the second, but Montreal closed the door in the third with a second goal from Poudrier, assisted by Leslie Oles at 5:48. Poudrier was deep in the zone and had managed to control the puck despite Blades attempts to wrest it from her. She carefully set up her shot and got it past the keeper on what looked like a deflection.
Montreal was called for a penalty but the Blades would pay for it. Poulin skated into the Blades zone and fed it to Ouellette who skated in and sent it into the upper right corner of the net at 10:08. Insult was added to injury less than a minute later when Bettez retrieved the loose puck in her zone, skated up the ice, faster than two pursuers and beat the goalie for a second shortie.
“I think where it really hurt us when we get a little man advantage then we lose a little bit of our defensive edge,” McCloskey said. “…and we’re not playing with the defensive urgency, and we give up a couple of short handed goals. Those kill you…That really took some energy out of the team I thought.”
“Five on five I thought we were fine,” McCloskey added. “Certainly their top line was putting a lot of pressure on them. But the girls did a good job of weathering that pressure.”
McCloskey was realistic about his opponents noting their extensive resume. “There might not be a better forward in the world,” McCloskey said speaking about Poulin “…and Rougeau is probably one of the real superstar defensemen,” McCloskey said also complimenting Ouellette. “They’re not just super skilled, but they’re extremely savvy.”
With the team continuing grow on defense, McCloskey responded to a question from this reporter on the progress of the team’s two Japanese defenders, Nachi Fujimoto and Sato Kikuchi who share the same pairing.
“They’re fitting in, it’s a challenge for them because language is a barrier. So we have to do a lot of hand gestures and diagramming. But I’m sure their English will improve as the season progresses, so that’ll help and then they’ll get more comfortable…They have a good skill set, very mobile, pretty aggressive. We’ve got some areas that they can work on with the puck I think on their stick. They need to make stronger decisions. Move the puck with a little more force….they’re both very determined, spunky back there. They compete hard. I’ve been very impressed.”
The Blades would go on to drop the second game of the series the next day 10-0 but this game was a sign of the ongoing rebuilding process in a league where the other teams have a head start.
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