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Daoust helps Montreal beat Boston 3-1 in PWHL showdown

MONTREAL — Melodie Daoust was in fine form for her Professional Women's Hockey League debut as Montreal beat Boston 3-1 in front of a crowd of 3,232 at Verdun Auditorium on Saturday afternoon.

The three-time Olympian made her debut on the first line alongside Marie-Philip Poulin and Laura Stacey. The 32-year-old forward from Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Que., has been on the team’s reserve player list until signing a 10-day Standard Player Agreement before Saturday’s contest. Her stellar performance was good enough to earn the game’s first star.

“It was incredible to see the atmosphere as I stepped onto the ice and I think I had chills after my first goal as the fans started cheering,” said Daoust after the game. “It feels good and it was fun to be able to do that here in Montreal.”

Montreal got on the scoreboard first as captain Poulin scored her seventh of the season, unassisted but off a rebound from Daoust at 3:51 of the first.

It was sort of a homecoming for Daoust and Poulin, who have had more than a few opportunities to build chemistry over their playing career, both with the Canadian National team and in the former Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

Daoust scored her first PWHL goal, assisted by Poulin, to put Montreal up 2-0 early into the second.

Safe to say that chemistry has not fizzled out between the two, and Stacey’s speed and forechecking help to round out the line.

“Marie-Philip and I have played a lot together in the past with Team Canada and I feel like we have strong chemistry on the ice, and not to forget Laura who works hard on that forecheck like you wouldn’t believe,” said Daoust.

“I don’t think we give her enough credit, but she’s the one who feeds us the puck so we can make these plays. It was fun to find each other on the first line again.”

Despite being away from professional action for quite some time as she’s put family first, she was quick to find her footing. Her son was in the stands watching it all happen.

“I like it when he’s in the stands, I feel like it gives me extra wings and I was really happy to see him there tonight,” she said. “I also feel like it grounds me, I’m able to play the role of mom while playing, it was incredible.”

Montreal head coach Kori Cheverie wasn’t at all worried about Daoust’s ability to perform headed into Saturday’s game, but noted that the decision to play her on the first line alongside those familiar faces was a good way to set her up for success.

“I don’t think that there was pressure on her in any way to come out and perform to what she did today,” said Cheverie.

“It’s one thing to be practising a couple times a week with a team but it’s a different story to be in game shape and game ready and so putting her in a spot where there’s the speed of Laura Stacey and the responsibility of Poulin, we thought it was a good decision to start her off there.”

There seemed to be some animosity during the game in front of the net on both ends, notably as Montreal’s Kristin O’Neill took a cross-check to the head in front of Boston’s net in the second period.

It seems there’s still work to be done to ensure the officials’ calls are consistent game after game, according to Cheverie.

“We don’t talk that much with the refs,” she said. “They chatted about (the call with O’Neill) but they never came back. I didn’t actually know what the conversation was that happened. I think we’re seeing a discrepancy a lot of nights, but I know it’s something that the league is working diligently on and trying to get it to a place where each night we’re seeing some pretty consistent play.

"We’ll keep working together until that happens.”

Late in that second period, Boston trimmed Montreal's lead as captain Hillary Knight scored her third of the season, assisted by Alina Müller who forced a Montreal turnover to take possession.

Erin Ambrose notched her third of the season, assisted by Maria Keopple and Poulin at 2:29 of the third, helping Montreal reclaim its two-goal lead.

Shortly after, Boston’s Jamie Lee Rattray was called for roughing, giving Montreal another chance to pull ahead. Despite strong offensive pressure, Boston managed to kill the Montreal power play.

Montreal would get another shot on the power play with under five minutes left to play as Boston defender Susanna Tapani was sent off for holding.

Just as Tapani exited the box, defender Jessica Digirolamo was called for two minutes for checking to the head, putting Montreal on the power play yet again to finish off the game and secure the win.

Goaltender Elaine Chuli posted 30 saves in this matchup and is the only goaltender in the league to remain undefeated.

“It’s been great so far,” Chuli said. “We’ve definitely been building as the season’s gone on and our team keeps improving and making our jobs easier back there.”

UP NEXT

Montreal will face New York on Wednesday night at Total Mortgage Arena. Boston plays Toronto on Wednesday night at Mattamy Athletic Centre.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2024.

Ireland Compton, The Canadian Press