Renards reach pinnacle of women’s high school hockey
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Equipment littered the ice as a sea of black and orange embraced at Dakota Community Centre. The wait was over, the Centre scolaire Leo-Remillard (CSLR) Renards were champions at last.
CSLR downed the Churchill Bulldogs 4-1 in a winner-take-all Game 3 in the Manitoba Women’s High School Hockey League Division 1 championship on Wednesday.
It’s the third provincial title overall for the program, having won Division 2 in 2017-18 and 2019-20.
An entertaining tilt saw CSLR outshoot the Bulldogs 33-30 with Naomi Delaquis, Chloé Nicolas and Zoe Comte scoring and Talia Jones adding an empty-netter for good measure for the Renards.
It was goaltender Emma Khan who stole the show, stopping 29 shots to lead her team to victory.
“I’m really proud that our whole team worked their best to get us here. I feel really good about it,” Khan said after the game.
“I felt like I really had to do this for the vets on the team since it’s their last game. I learned from the last game and knew what I had to do to improve.”
After going 19-5 during the regular season, the second-seeded Renards went 6-1 in the playoffs en route to the title.
Jones was a problem for Churchill throughout the championship series, cramming the stat sheet with five goals, including the series-sealing goal on Wednesday, which sent the team into a frenzy, spilling over the boards in celebration.
“I really wanted to win it for our Twelfth graders this year, because I know they really wanted it and I really wanted it for them, too,” said Jones, who finished tied for second in scoring during the regular season with 42 points.
“I felt really happy and sad at the same time. I’m really happy we won because it’s a great accomplishment, but it’s also sad that the season’s over and some girls will never get to play with each other again.”
A wide-open first period saw a flurry of shots from both sides, but the Renards entered the break on top by a pair of goals.
Two minutes after Delaquis snuck a shot past Bulldogs’ goaltender Lexus Remillard to draw first blood, Nicolas tracked a bouncing puck beside the net and wired a wrister into the open cage.
Nicolas has had a busy month. Ahead of the series, the league’s leading scorer was named the top player in the MWHSHL by the Free Press coaches poll.
“Definitely very stressful with all the games, but I think we worked as a team and it couldn’t have ended better,” Nicolas said. “(Tuesday) didn’t really go our way and I think we bounced back and pushed through the whole game and played a strong third period.”
Isabela Huculak was the only Bulldog to solve Khan, sneaking a rebound under her left arm to make the game 2-1.
The Renards’ netminder was rock solid otherwise, making a pair of outstanding saves, including one case of robbery with her glove in the second period, and another on a breakaway halfway through the final frame.
“Emma’s been a backbone of our team since Day 1,” said head coach Mariella Daigneault, who’s led the program for two years. “She made some incredible saves and really puts our team in a position to win every time she’s in net.
“Very proud. It’s a really great group of girls, extremely hard working and always (have) a positive attitude. I think there’s a big amount of (pride) for each and every one of those girls and being proud of what we did for the school, for the community, and it should be something that they’ll remember for a very long time.”
Joshua Frey-Sam happily welcomes a spirited sports debate any day of the week.