by Mark Staffieri
In a season that has the Montreal Stars staking their claim as one of the greatest sports franchises on the globe, it has also been a season defined by many special milestones for this Canadian Women’s Hockey League team.
From Cathy Chartrand becoming the second captain in franchise history, to rookie backstop Meghan Corley-Byrne earning a shutout in her CWHL debut, Emmanuelle Blais has only added to that momentum.
Heading into an emotional Saturday, March 8 home contest against the Boston Blades, Blais had 98 career points. Considering that the match was also a fundraiser for breast cancer, a disease that has affected families of various players, it was certainly one of the most important games on the annual CWHL calendar.
With a three-point output, she would become the third Montreal Stars player this season to hit the storied century mark in career points. Adding to the excitement was the fact that a sell-out crowd was on hand to witness the impressive accomplishment.
It took less than the first half of the opening frame for the forward from Montreal, Que., to make history. At the 3:34 mark, Blais and sensational sophomore Mariève Provost earned the assists on a goal scored by stay-at-home defender Alyssa Cecere. Five minutes and 57 seconds later, Blais and Carly Hill would assist on a power-play marker by Caroline Ouellette. In addition to providing the Stars with the 2-0 lead, the assist gave Blais her 100th career point.
Despite a scoreless second period, Blais was not finished marking up the scores sheet for the Stars. After Sarah Vaillancourt scored Montreal’s second power play goal of the contest at the 5:23 mark of the third, Blais slipped the puck past Sochi 2014 gold medallist Geneviève Lacasse for the 4-0 lead, and the Stars fans roared in approval.
With the score ended in a 4-2 victory for the Stars, it was only fitting that Blais was recognized as the game’s First Star.
As this signifies the first time in CWHL history that three members of the same team hit a 100th career point in the same season, Blais has helped to complete a unique legacy in league history. She joins team founder Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux and Vanessa (Vinny) Davidson in the century club.
“Since my university years, I don't really pay attention to points,” Blais said. “But to reach 100 points in a league such as the CWHL is very special to me. That being said, part of the points I earned also belong to my wonderful teammates who help me improve and perform better every game."
For Stars general manager Meg Hewings, this represents a tremendous point of pride and a unique aspect in franchise lore.
“We are extremely proud of three of our club's veteran players reaching their 100th point career point this season,” Hewings told the CWHL. “Emmanuelle, Lisa-Marie and Vanessa are integral members of the team, and pioneers in developing a pro league for women.
“It's a testament to their talents as athletes that they have all reached this historic milestone in their careers with the Stars,” she said.
During an evening during which the true winners were the fans in attendance and breast cancer patients who will benefit as a result, the superior quality of the on-ice product helped enhance the already memorable event. Various members of the Independent Women’s Football League’s Montreal Blitz women’s tackle football club were also in attendance as a gesture of support. It was an evening of charity and friendship off the ice, and individual and league accomplishment off the ice.