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Pan­thers’ Desch­enes didn’t have far too look for help in goaltending ca­reer

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JA­SON MAL­LOY

UPEI goalie Marie-Soleil Desch­enes looks to stay hot against Monc­ton.

Keeper of the crease

It was a nat­u­ral fit for Marie-Soleil Desch­enes to be­come a goalie.

The 21-year-old UPEI Pan­thers stop­per, who is known as Sun­shine, started play­ing hockey when she was four years old and be­came a goalie three years later.

“I al­ways wanted to be a goalie,” Desch­enes said be­fore Tues­day’s prac­tice.

Her father, Jo­ce­lyn, was a goalie, who played in Europe for a cou­ple of sea­sons. He is now a full-time goalie coach in the Mon­treal area.

“I was re­ally lucky to have him . . . that’s why I am here to­day be­cause of him,” Desch­enes said.

He helped her with both the fun­da­men­tals of the po­si­tion and the men­tal side of the game.

The five-foot-three goalie said she is fo­cused in the net and fast to the puck. “I’m not tall, but I play big.” She did just that last week­end when the Pan­thers, fight­ing for their play­off lives, won a pair of games in Hal­i­fax. They de­feated Dal­housie 1-0 Satur­day to snap a 12-game win­less streak and At­lantic Univer­sity Sport-lead­ing Saint Mary’s 2-1 on Sun­day.

Desch­enes stopped 53 of 54 shots, in­clud­ing 13 saves in the third pe­riod against Dal­housie when the shots were 13-1.

The wins have the Pan­thers two points back of the fi­nal play­off spot.

“We were re­ally fo­cused, we worked hard ev­ery time we were on the ice and we played as a team,” Desch­enes said. “With the first win, we got con­fi­dent. Now ev­ery­one is con­fi­dent and happy, so that helps a lot.”

The Pan­thers (4-9-3) look to keep it go­ing tonight when they host the Monc­ton Aigles Bleues (9-6-1) at 7 p.m. at MacLauch­lan Arena.

“I’ll try and do ev­ery­thing I can to win this game,” Desch­enes said.

Head coach Bruce Don­ald­son know he will get her best each time she takes to the crease.

“She brings her A game each and ev­ery night and just gives, I think, the team con­fi­dence when there’s a big save that needs to be made, she’s there,” he said.

Desch­enes left home to at­tend the On­tario Hockey Academy in Corn­wall, Ont., for two years. She heard there was an op­por­tu­nity to play at UPEI and came with her father for a week to check things out.

“I like small towns, so it re­ally felt like home,” she said. “Peo­ple here are so wel­com­ing.”

She joined a Pan­thers squad com­ing off a con­fer­ence ti­tle. Desch­enes started the sea­son at No. 3 on the depth chart and was the starter by the end of the sea­son.

“Tech­ni­cally, she’s very strong and works ex­tremely hard,” Don­ald­son said.

Don­ald­son said the team played well this week­end, but that’s in the rear-view mir­ror now.

“We are in play­off mode,” he said. “We have to look at ev­ery game as po­ten­tially our last be­cause we dug our­selves quite a bit of a hole in the first half.”

He said UPEI has to play well de­fen­sively tonight, cap­i­tal­ize on its chances and con­tinue the dis­ci­plined play it showed dur­ing the week­end.

JA­SON MAL­LOY/THE GUARDIAN

Marie-Soleil Desch­enes is in her fourth sea­son as UPEI Pan­thers goalie.

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