Genevieve Bannon poised to be Draft Day Gem for Les Canadiennes

With their first pick of the 2018 CWHL Draft, Les Canadiennes de Montreal acquired a highly dependable skater possessing both big-game experience and strong playmaking abilities. Enjoying a sterling collegiate career where she emerged as a key contributor towards the Clarkson Golden Knights capturing a pair of NCAA Frozen Four championships, the prized pinnacle of playing professionally in her home province is one step closer to becoming a fait accompli for Genevieve Bannon.

Raised in the Montreal suburb of Candiac, Quebec, the 5-8 forward, spent the 2017-18 season competing with Goteborg HC in Sweden. On the other side of the Atlantic, Bannon displayed a remarkable offensive flair. Amassing 53 points in 41 games played, her strong playmaking abilities resulted in a solid 38 assists, simultaneously contributing to an expanding legacy of Canadian-born talents shining on European ice.

Bannon’s international experience also includes a milestone akin to so many other members of Les Canadiennes; the prestige of wearing the Hockey Canada jersey. Gracing the ice at the 2013 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds in Heinola and Vierumäki, Finland, Bannon was part of a gold medal winning roster, one of three players from Quebec, including Catherine Daoust and Catherine Dubois. As a side note, U18 teammates Halli Krzyzaniak, Eden Murray, Kimberly Newell and Sarah Nurse were also part of the 2018 CWHL Draft Class.

While such an exciting milestone supplied Bannon with a lifetime of memories, the golden glories were prologue for a pivotal four-year career filled with numerous triumphs at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. Donning the number 9 in the Clarkson Green and Gold, in tribute to her favourite hockey player, legendary Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Bannon captured a Frozen Four title in her freshman season (2013-14).

Playing alongside future CWHL draft picks such as Erin Ambrose, Renata Fast, Erica Howe, Shannon MacAulay, Cayley Mercer and Jamie Lee Rattray on that championship roster, Bannon joins a sensational sorority of hockey luminaries making the exciting leap into the professional ranks. Of note, her sophomore season saw another unique linkage to the CWHL. Joining the coaching staff were a pair of Clarkson Cup champions, Meghan Duggan, who hoisted the coveted Cup in 2013 with the Boston Blades, while Britni Smith, scored the Cup-clinching tally in 2014 with the Toronto Furies.

Over the last four years, the number of Golden Knights alumnae that have made inroads in CWHL hockey is quickly emerging as one of the league’s most recent legacies. From the likes of Howe and Rattray participating with Team Red in the inaugural CWHL All-Star Game, to the defensive duo of Ambrose and Fast being drafted in the same year by the Toronto Furies, other notable alumnae in league play include Lauren Dahm of the Worcester Blades while Mercer starred overseas in China during the Vanke Rays inaugural season.

Graduating from Clarkson in 2017 with her second national championship, it served as Bannon’s finest hour. Defeating the Wisconsin Badgers in the 2017 Frozen Four championship game, recording a pair of assists on goals scored by Savannah Harmon and Mercer, part of a 3-0 blanking. Complementing the euphoria of winning a championship included a pair of honors for Bannon, including a nod to the ECAC Second Team All-Star team, along with a selection to the NCAA Frozen Four All-Tournament Team. During such a memorable senior season, which also saw Bannon serve as an assistant captain, she amassed 53 points, placing second on the team.

The championship game also proved to continue the theme of unique connections that defined Bannon’s career in Potsdam. From the outset, former Montreal Stars goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens was between the pipes for the opposing Badgers. In addition, Sarah Nurse, claimed second overall by the Toronto Furies in the 2018 CWHL Draft, was among the Badgers’ leaders on offense.

Adding to the sense of coincidence was the fact that the Golden Knights’ first game of that championship season was an exhibition tilt against Montreal’s Concordia Stingers. Not only have the Stingers recently produced a crop of draft picks for Les Canadiennes, but their head coach is franchise legend Julie Chu, who won three Cups with the Stars/Canadiennes franchise.

Worth noting, Bannon is joined by goaltender Shea Tiley as Golden Knights greats that are part of the 2018 CWHL Draft class, both looking to stake their claim in league lore. Although Tiley shall take on the role of opponent this season, selected sixth overall by the Toronto Furies, there is a much more profound Clarkson connection related to this pick.

Last season, the Furies shipped Ambrose to Les Canadiennes in the aftermath of her release from Canada’s Centralization Camp. Reaping a bounty of draft picks in exchange, the Furies also obtained Les Canadiennes’ first round pick in 2018, which proved to be the sixth pick overall. Not only was Tiley technically traded for Ambrose, a former teammate at Clarkson, Bannon’s entry into the professional hockey ranks allows her the opportunity to call Ambrose a teammate once again. Such familiarity should result in strong on-ice chemistry, making the adjustment to the CWHL much more enjoyable for a pair of players both entering their first full seasons with the bleu, blanc et rouge.

Although Les Canadiennes offense currently features two of the world’s finest forwards in Marie-Philip Poulin and Hilary Knight, the acquisition of Bannon provides a significant depth to the offense. As demonstrated at Clarkson, Bannon not only possesses strong playmaking abilities, capable of feeding the puck to skilled scorers, which Les Canadiennes have no shortage of, her greatest asset may be her willingness to learn and grow.

In three successive seasons with Clarkson, Bannon continued to set career highs in assists and points, reaching lofty career totals of 101 assists and 150 points, respectively. For a Montreal franchise looking to become the first-ever to win five Clarkson Cups, Bannon’s big game experience may be the suitable fit to make such ambitions an historic reality, bringing a consistency that has made her a valued teammate and significant asset on every team that she has skated for.

Pair of women’s hockey heroes join Clarkson’s coaching staff

As the Clarkson Golden Knights open the 2014-15 NCAA women’s ice hockey season in defense of their national title, two highly accomplished individuals shall be part of the new-look coaching staff. Meghan Duggan, a three-time Frozen Four winner and two-time Winter Games silver-medalist shall be joined by Britni Smith, who scored the game winning tally in the 2014 Clarkson Cup finals.

The two will have big shoes to fill, replacing long-time coaching staff members Shannon Desrosiers and Matt Kelly, who left the program in the aftermath of the 2013-14 campaign. Since the program became part of NCAA Division I hockey in 2003, Shannon Desrosiers was part of the coaching staff and certainly part of the team’s heartbeat.

Smith (left) and Duggan bring NCAA, IIHF and CWHL experience to Clarkson

Smith (left) and Duggan bring NCAA, IIHF and CWHL experience to Clarkson

Her option to leave the team was to spend more time with her family. Of note, Kelly joined the program in 2008 and is becoming the head scout for the US National Women’s Team.

Duggan’s experience and dedication makes her a remarkable mentor for the players at Clarkson. Having served as the US captain at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, she made national news when she opened up about her problems with concussions, making her inactive for one year.

Of note, Duggan’s hockey resume is sterling, with four gold medals at the IIHF Women’s World Championships and a Patty Kazmaier Award at the NCAA level, where she graduated with 238 career points. Serving on head coach Matt Desrosier’s coaching staff will allow her to continue to compete for the US National Team, along with her role as one of the superstars on the Boston Blades.

Taking into account her reputation as an ambassador for the game, Duggan is poised to be a positive influence on the players on the roster. Her experience playing for some highly talented and successful coaches should translate well at Clarkson. At the University of Wisconsin, Duggan played for Mark Johnson, a member of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team. With the Boston Blades, where she helped the club win its first championship, she played for Digit Murphy, one of the most winning coaches in the history of NCAA women’s hockey, reaching over 300 victories with the Brown Bears.

Blueliner Erin Ambrose is certainly on Hockey Canada’s radar as a player that may contend for a spot on the Canadian roster at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games. With two seasons of eligibility remaining, there is no question that Duggan has the potential to be a mentor for her.

An added bonus for Clarkson is the fact that someone of Duggan’s reputation on the coaching staff shall certainly help in the recruiting of future stars. With the nearby region of Eastern Ontario having produced many stars for Clarkson, the chance for such players in that area to play for a coach with Winter Games experience will be a strong selling point.

Having played for archrival St. Lawrence University, the site of Smith behind Clarkson’s bench will bring with it high emotion when the two play each other for the first time this season. Of note, she does bring some coaching experience to the position. During the 2013-14 season, she juggled time playing for the Toronto Furies while serving on Vicky Sunohara’s coaching staff with the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, who enjoyed a 21-9 campaign. Fellow Clarkson alum Brooke Beazer played alongside Smith for the Furies, as the club won their first-ever Clarkson Cup title.

Once again, Ambrose may be a beneficiary of Smith’s arrival. Not only has Smith also served in various coaching capacities with Hockey Canada’s female programs, she has also played with Team Canada’s U22 program (like Ambrose). Her experiences playing defense, along with her tenure in the CWHL may prove vital as Ambrose looks to take the next step in her career. Eligible for the 2016 CWHL Draft, Ambrose may be destined to go as a first-overall pick.

Raised in Port Perry, Ontario, east of Toronto, Smith would compete in 146 contests for the St. Lawrence Skating Saints. Having graduated in 2010, she recoreded the third highest points by a blueliner in NCAA play during her senior season. In addition, she was a top-10 finalist for the 2010 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award.

This was complemented by Second Team All-ECAC Hockey honors as a junior and senior. A former winner of the CWHL’s Rookie of the Year award, Smith also scored the first CWHL goal in an NHL arena (Toronto’s Air Canada Centre).

With Clarkson starting a new chapter in its storied history, it is encouraging to see former female hockey stars expand their careers with coaching roles. Gina Kingsbury, who opposed Duggan at the 2010 Winter Games, was hired as a coach with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, another proud NCAA program. While the transitions of Duggan and Smith to coaching at the NCAA level should be relatively smooth, they could not have asked to be involved with a better program.

Danielle Boudreau’s first career CWHL goal holds even greater meaning

With Brampton visiting Boston for the first game of the 2013-14 CWHL season, it brought with it a sense of renewed optimism. As both teams have rebuilt through the draft after having lost several superstar members of their rosters for the golden dream of the Sochi Winter Games, fans at ISCC Simsbury Olympic rink were treated to a new generation of stars.

As the frozen perimeter brought with it fresh faces and established snipers at the NCAA level such as Brampton’s first-round pick Jess Jones and Boston’s Casey Pickett, who once played in an outdoor game at Fenway Park, fans were anticipating which player would log the first goal of the season.

Ironically, it would be a stay-at-home defender with great humility and a team-first approach that would log the magical first goal of the season. Danielle Boudreau, selected in the third round, 13th overall by Brampton would bury the puck past Alissa Fromkin. Ironically, the first goal scored in the 2012-13 season was also scored by a rookie, Sara Dagenais of the Montreal Stars.

One of the biggest goals of her life would be scored at the 9:28 mark of the first with assists going to long-time CWHL vet Jennifer Kirk and Kelly Hart. With experience as an alternate captain (with Clarkson), Boudreau has the potential to provide solid leadership for the rebuilding Brampton club. Complemented by shot blocking as the favorite aspect of her game, it may not be the last time this season fans hear her name.

Having carved a solid career at the NCAA level with the Clarkson Golden Knights, the Whitby native won Clarkson’s Ron Frazer Award (presented to a player who has elevated her game in key situations). Having logged 32 points in 150 career games, her last NCAA goal would come on December 3, 2011 versus Union, while her final points were a pair of assists on February 3, 2012 against Brown.

While Jill Cardella and Casey Pickett (also logging her first career CWHL goal in her debut) would score in the second stanza as Boston eventually prevailed, Boudreau’s goal was part of a valiant effort in which Brampton is ready to recapture the glory days of old. With parity being the theme of this new season, every team has an opportunity to surprise and compete for the most coveted prize in women’s hockey. Just like the first goal of the season, the last goal to win the Clarkson may be from the unlikeliest of stars.