Labonté makes more than 40 saves in front of thrilled Red Deer crowd that filled rink
by Kristen Lipscombe
RED DEER, Alta. – Veteran netminder Charline Labonté (Boisbriand, Que./Montreal, CWHL) displayed exactly why she's won two Olympic gold medals Tuesday night, making an amazing 41 saves over 60 minutes to help keep Canada's National Women's Team in a game against the tough and rumble Red Deer Chiefs.
But despite her outstanding performance between the posts, the two-time defending TELUS Cup champions skated away with a 2-0 shutout win over the Canadian women, much to the delight of local fans who packed Red Deer Arena so that there was only standing room available for latecomers to the rink. While there were loud cheers for their local boys, the crowd couldn't help but also root at times for the team that will soon represent them on the ice at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Whispers of Labonté's clear talent and skill in the crease filtered through the arena, and her teammates also acknowledged she played a key role in making the game exciting for players and fans alike Tuesday night.
"She was our best player tonight - she was outstanding," fellow Team Canada veteran Hayley Wickenheiser (Shaunavon, Sask./University of Calgary, CIS) said following the game. "She kept us in the game and really gave us a chance."
But despite some fast action on the ice through a scoreless two periods, and some solid power play opportunities, Canada couldn't come up with enough shots on net, and never cracked the scoreboard. Both of Red Deer's goals came in the third, with Trey Degraaf getting his team on the board at 5:13 in the period before Brad Makofka sealed the deal in the final seconds. Red Deer goaltender Jayden Sittler earned the shutout.
Wickenheiser said Canada's National Women's Team just has to "keep chipping away," as the red and white prepare for their final two Midget Series games later this week, before leaving for the Olympics.
"It's always a battle when you go to the Olympics, and winning a gold medal is never an easy process," Wickenheiser said. "We just have to build on what we've been doing as a team."
Wickenheiser and teammates thanked the City of Red Deer for its incredible support Tuesday night, with upwards of 1,000 fans filling the stands.
"It's nice to have the support, the rink was full," Wickenheiser said. "We certainly appreciate that. We would have liked to have a win, but they're a good team, and they deserved the win in the end."
Canada's National Women's Team still has two more Midget Series game on its schedule, with the red and white playing the Strathmore Bisons at 9 p.m. MT on Friday, Jan. 17 at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary, followed by the final Midget match-up , with the puck dropping at 1:30 p.m., also at the Markin MacPhail Centre, on Sunday, Jan. 19 against the Calgary Buffaloes. Get your $5 at the door for a last chance at seeing Team Canada in action before Sochi 2014.
"We have just about one more week left in Canada," Wickenheiser said. "And we're all excited to get overseas."
To stay-up-to-date on Canada’s National Women’s Team on its final stretch on the Road to Sochi, check out Hockey Canada’s official website at www.hockeycanada.ca/nwt and follow Team Canada on social media at twitter.com/hc_women and www.facebook.com/hockeycanada.
|Game Information/Renseignements sur le match|
|Game #/Match no
|Arena/Aréna||Red Deer Arena||Location/Lieu||Red Deer, Alta.|
|Date||Tuesday, January 14, 2014||Time/Heure||19:30 MT|
|Goals & Penalties/Buts et pénalités|
|First Period/Première période|
|Second Period/Deuxième période|
|Third Period/Troisième période|
05:13 RD Trey Degraaf (Jeffrey Dewit, Tyler Steenbergen)
19:11 RD Brad Makofka EN/FD
|Goaltenders/Gardien(ne)s de but|
|Shots on Goal/Tirs au but||1||2||3||Total|