The Montreal Force are starting from scratch this season. They’ve got a handful of experienced players and a whole lot of fresh faces.
At the beginning of the 2021-22 season, the PHF teased the addition of two new expansion teams. Only one came to fruition for 2022-23, and the Montreal Force were born.
Ann-Sophie Bettez, Jade Downie-Landry, Brooke Stacey
If you want to get technical, the entire Force roster is the biggest addition. They’re starting entirely from scratch and they’ve managed to convince some big names to sign on.
The biggest signing that they made in the offseason is undoubtedly their inaugural captain, Ann-Sophie Bettez. She was consistently one of the best players on Les Canadiennes/Montreal Stars in the seven seasons that she played in the CWHL. Before that she had a promising University career, being named McGill’s rookie hockey player of the year in 2008, and team MVP in 2009. She comes to the Force after playing three seasons with the PWHPA. In her last season with the Montreal hub, she had 12 points (7G, 3A), but made the decision to play for the Force after deciding that she wanted to chase a championship in a team setting.
Downie-Landry might be a new name to anyone who doesn’t follow U Sports women’s hockey, but that won’t last long. She’s poised to make her mark on the PHF after leading all of Canadian women’s university hockey is both points and goals last season. She was McGill’s captain in 2021-22 after serving as an alternate captain in 2018-19 and 2019-20 (2020-21 having been canceled due to the pandemic.). Like Bettez, Downie-Landry has a number of McGill hockey MVP awards to her name.
Unlike Bettez and Downie-Landry, Brooke Stacey has played two seasons in the PHF (then NWHL). Stacey played for the Beauts in 2019-20 and 2020-21. She returns to the league after not playing in 2021-22. She was an all-star rookie in 2019-20, with 16 points (8G, 8A) in 14 games. It’s going to be exciting to see Stacey back in the PHF after a year off.
F: Alexandra Labelle, Alyssa Holmes, Ann-Sophie Bettez, Brooke Stacey, Catherine Dubois, Jade Downie-Landry, Kim Deschênes, Kristina Shanahan, Samantha Isbell, Sarah Lefort, Deziray De Sousa, Maude Gélinas, Laura Jardin
D: Brigitte Laganière, Catherine Daoust, Christine Deaudelin, Kaity Howarth, Gabriell De Serres, Sally Hoerr, Taylor Baker
G: Marie-Soleil Deschênes, Tricia Deguire
- Known cap spent: Uknown
- Roster: 21/25
- Coaches: Peter Smith (HC), Pierre Alain (AC), Katia Clement-Heydra (AC)
- President: Kevin Raphaël/
Any offense that has Ann-Sophie Bettez and Brooke Stacey on it is set up to score some mega goals.
They also have a lot of potential that they can harness. The roster skews younger and towards recent college/university grads, which is to be expected for any expansion team. The fact of the matter is, we don’t really know what most of these players are going to be capable of, which means that they could surprise us.
The Montreal Force aren’t really going to have a true home-ice advantage this season. They’ve introduced a touring model, with all of their home games being played in different arenas across Quebec. While the stands will definitely be filled with Force fans, we’ve seen how much of an impact home ice can make in the PHF. Travelling might be a great way to grow the team’s profile in the province, but there’s a distinct possibility that it might come back to bite them when it comes to their performance on the ice.
In addition to that, depth doesn’t seem to be their strength. They fall off a bit once you look past their best three or four forwards, which is going to make it difficult to compete against teams like Boston and Connecticut that can roll four threatening lines without an issue.
Goaltending could also be an issue, Marie-Soleil Deschênes hasn’t seen much game action in the last three years, and before that, she was a serviceable backup for Les Canadiennes. Tricia Deguire was McGill’s de-facto starting goaltender last season, and while her save percentage was impressive last season (.931 SV%), goaltenders can usually expect to see a drop in performance going from U Sports to a pro league. Simply put, their goaltending situation is alright, but they don’t have a goalie who’s going to steal any games unless someone has a surprise up their sleeve.
The Force aren’t going to be terrible, but they’re not going to be the best either. They could surprise all of us and go on a run, but it’s unlikely.
They’re fine, and they’re probably going to be fine, but in their first season, don’t be surprised if they lose more games than they win.