The Express du Richelieu spent a lot of time watching the clock during the 2015-16 season. Not so much to see how much time was left in a game – it mostly
didn’t matter: the team was often ahead, usually by multiple goals – but to know when to make a wish.
Every time the game clock, or any clock in the rink, showed duplicating numbers – 7:07 left in a period; 11:11 a.m. – the players would stop head coach
Michel Dubé and tell him to make a wish with them. The wish was always the same: make it to the 2016 Esso Cup.
Once in a game an offside call brought a whistle with 4:44 showing on the clock. The players, says Dubé, asked him to take a timeout so they could make a
wish. (That particular wish wasn’t granted.)
Dubé had his team motivated from Day 1. Quebec has not sent a team to the Esso Cup since 2013, when LHFDQ Nord won the title, so the coach announcing at
August camp that the provincial champion would be going to nationals this time inspired the Express to work twice as hard.
Frequently players came to practice and games with drawn-on tattoos representing the Esso Cup, reminding themselves of where their season could end.
It worked. The team went unbeaten through its first 15 games, including running off 11 wins in a row at one point, and lost only three of 24 games.
Two of those defeats came at the hands of its biggest rival, the Élites de l’Estrie. Richelieu beat Estrie in the finals of the Dodge Cup twice in recent
years, and the Élites took two tournament finals over the Express this year.
The team’s first loss to Estrie was its first loss of the season and provided a turning point. After both goals against came on the power play, Dubé says
the team adjusted its defensive system and penalty kill.
By the end of the season the Express had built enough of a cushion that it could withstand losing its last two games and still capture the regular season
title by one point over the Citadelles de la Capitale-Nationale.
Thirteen teams qualified for the playoffs and were divided into two groups for the first preliminary round. Richelieu went 6-0 in its group to advance to
Round 2. There, three of its four games needed overtime, including a win over Capitale-Nationale and a loss to Estrie; the team went 3-0-1-0.
After that, all that stood between Richelieu and a trip to the Esso Cup was its two biggest 2015-16 obstacles.
Capitale-Nationale awaited in the semifinal. The Citadelles led 1-0 after one. Forty seconds after they doubled that lead in the second, Katyanne Lebrun
replied for the Express. Floriane Dion and Joannie Garand scored 23 seconds apart in the third period to put Richelieu in front, and Dion added another
goal less than two minutes after that to seal a 4-2 win.
Estrie awaited in the championship game. As expected the two sides played evenly, with Éloïse Dubé scoring twice before the game was half over and the
teams tied 2-2. Exactly as the clock struck the 10-minute mark of the second period, Garand found the back of the net, and the second half of the game
belonged to the Express. Dubé completed her hat trick and Léonie Philbert scored in the third. Richelieu advanced to the Esso Cup with a 5-2 win.
It was Richelieu’s third straight provincial championship, but unlike in season’s past, celebration wasn’t followed by the disappointment of not going to
nationals. The Express are finally Esso-bound and no doubt wishing the countdown clock will soon hit 0:00 so new wishes can be made.
HOW THEY GOT TO WEYBURN
Ligue de hockey féminin de développement du Québec
First round: 6-0-0-0 (defeated Laval-Montreal 7-0, defeated Sélects du Lac St-Louis 3-2 OT, defeated Triolet 3-1, defeated Outaouais 4-1, defeated
Laurentides/Lanaudière 2-1, defeated Élites du Lac St-Louis 8-0)
Second round: 3-0-1-0 (defeated Capitale-Nationale 2-1 OT, lost to Estrie 4-3 OT, defeated Remparts du Richelieu 4-1, defeated Chaudière Ouest 3-2 OT)
Semifinal: defeated Capital-Nationale 4-2
Championship: defeated Estrie 5-2
Record (W-L-OTL-T): 19-3-0-2 (1st in LHFDQ)
Goals For: 82 (1st in LHFDQ)
Goals Against: 31 (T-3rd in LHFDQ)
Longest Winning Streak: 11 (Oct. 10-Nov. 21)
Top 3 Scorers:
- Éloïse Dubé – 18G 10A 28P (1st in LHFDQ)
- Léonie Philbert – 5G 22A 27P (2nd in LHFDQ)
- Joannie Garand – 13G 11A 24P (T-5th in LHFDQ)
Goals For: 48
Goals Against: 17
Top 3 Scorers:
Éloïse Dubé – 11G 7A 18P
Léonie Philbert – 5G 8A 13P
Floriane Dion – 10G 2A 12P
NATIONAL MIDGET CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
PLAYERS TO WATCH
protects the puck well … a threat in front of the net … precise passer … plays her best in big games … a leader who encourages her teammates … has the
drive to win
offensive defenseman … impossible to beat one-on-one … fast and explosive skater … powerful slapshot … makes a great first pass … uses her body well to
protect the puck
Playmaker who sees the ice well … quick to find open spaces … defensively sound … consistent and reliable … excellent in all three zones … a leader who
shows by example … calm and determined