In a stunning move, league sources confirmed that Geneviève Lacasse has been traded to the Calgary Inferno. The move is the fulfillment of the trade that sent Tara Watchorn from then-Team Alberta to the Boston Blades in exchange for future considerations in 2014.
A new job opportunity and nearby family were two of the driving factors behind the move.
“After the season ended, she expressed to me that she has a job opportunity in Calgary and that’s where she kind of wanted to land,” said Boston GM Krista Patronick. “Hockey is one of those things where you have to find a way for it to fit into your life, but you also have to prioritize. A job is important for her, especially where she can build a resume and prepare for life after hockey, which is something you have to consider.”
Lacasse, born in Montreal and raised in Kingston, Ontario, wasn’t able to work while playing for the Blades, the CWHL’s only American franchise, because of her visa. Moving back to Canada provides her with the opportunity to continue to play in the CWHL and pursue other career opportunities.
“While it is always a sad occasion for any team to lose a player of the caliber of Genevieve, the CWHL and its teams are committed to supporting the off-ice careers and aspirations of our talented athletes and ensuring they continue to have the opportunity to play hockey at the highest level,” said Brenda Andress, the CWHL’s commissioner.
It’s an understatement to say that the Boston Blades will miss Lacasse, who spent four season with the team. After the Blades underwent a massive overhaul in 2015, Lacasse, along with defender Tara Watchorn, were the two mainstays who helped the team both on the ice and off it. Lacasse was a member of the Blade’s 2012-13 Clarkson Championship winning team, and she was there when they won it again in 2015.
“We’re obviously upset to lose her, and sad,” said Patronick. “When you look back for all the things that she’s done for this team, the Clarkson Cup championships, and the save record this past season, and all her achievements, she’s been such a big part of this team for so long.”
Though she won just one game on the Blades last season, Lacasse’s impact on Boston’s team cannot be understated. She finished the season with a .904 save percentage and saved an incredible 1,023 shots, nearly double that of Christina Kessler, who stopped 541 shots in four fewer games than Lacasse.
“She has been the backbone of the team, I mean you can see that on the ice but definitely also off the ice,” said Patronick. “Just keeping everyone positive this past season was a big one, keeping it light in the locker room for sure, lots of laughs were had with Genevieve and we’ll definitely miss that.”
“Finding that love for hockey again”
While it’s a devastating blow for the Blades to lose their top netminder, Boston, despite finishing dead-last in the league’s standings last season, put together a team that was one of the closest-knit groups in hockey. That’s what Lacasse says she will miss most.
“Last year was really amazing team-wise. I’d say hands down, one of the top three team-teams I’ve been on,” said Lacasse. “We made practices fun, we made games fun, and I feel like I kind of found that in my game again; that it is a game at the end of the day.”
Lacasse and Watchorn were looked to as leaders consistently throughout last season, meant to show a team full of rookies what it meant to play in the CWHL. But the memories and lessons that Lacasse got out of last season had just as big of an impact on her, even as a fourth-year CWHL veteran.
“Just finding that love for hockey again, not that I—,” she paused. “When you just go out and play pond hockey, and your hands are cold and your feet are freezing, but you remember those childhood memories of how much fun it was. I think a lot of that came up again last year, and [it was an] amazing, amazing group of girls.”
Of all the teams to go to, Calgary is the one with perhaps the strongest goaltending already in place. Though Kathy Desjardins departed during the summer because of a move, the team is returning Clarkson Cup MVP Delayne Brian, fresh off an incredible performance that propelled her team to their first league championship. Joining Brian is Emerance Maschmeyer, who was drafted just days ago by newly appointed GM Jeff Stevenson. Maschmeyer had the breakout performance of a lifetime during the 2016 IIHF World Championships, where she finished with a .956 save percentage and allowed just four goals in five games. Add Lacasse to the mix and you could essentially put a brick wall in Calgary’s net and get the same results.
But that means there will be fierce competition for playing time, though Lacasse is used to playing alongside excellent goaltenders by now. During her first season with the Blades, she played with Molly Schaus; after the Olympics, she joined forces with Brittany Ott for two seasons; and she’s played with the likes of Shannon Szabados and Charline Labonté on the international stage.
“I think it’s really going to be a lot of competition and I think we’re really going to push each other, and I think it’ll make everyone a better goalie at the end of the day,” said Lacasse.
Right now, Lacasse isn’t thinking so much about who will play games in Calgary, or whether she’ll be a starter or a backup or somewhere in-between, or even about the 2018 Olympics. She is looking forward to her first game against Boston -- though she says it’ll be weird playing her former teammates -- and is especially excited that her brother, sister-in-law and two nephews will be able to come and watch her play some games.
“They were in Cape Cod while I was playing in Boston the last two years, and they just got posted out there with the air force,” said Lacasse. “So I’m really excited to be able to see them again, I was able to see them once a week or more last year. They would come to my games, and they’re definitely going to be at a couple of games this year so I’m really looking forward to that and just being able to see my nephews grow.”
Moving on for Boston
And now Lacasse, Boston’s rock in net, is gone. What comes next for the Blades in the second year of their rebuild?
The team in front of whatever goaltender emerges as the new No. 1 will undeniably be stronger than last season. Patronick just selected an incredible 26 players in the CWHL draft, the most of any of the five teams and enough to fill a minor league squad if they wanted. Five of those players were goalies: Lauren Dahm (Clarkson), Amanda Fontaine (Sacred Heart), Sarah Quigley (Buffalo State), Deanna Meunier (SUNY Cortland), and Marley Selfridge. Fontaine played with the Blades’ squad during the annual Beantown Classic, and will be one of the attendees at the team’s tryout camps. Also present, says Patronick, will be a couple of free agents vying for the spot.
“I can tell you that one of them is Shelley Payne, who has been playing in Europe for the last couple of years. We’re looking forward to getting her on the ice with us as well as some of our draft picks,” said Patronick.
Also in the mix is Amanda Cariddi, last year’s backup goaltender for Boston. Though she rarely saw the ice thanks to Lacasse, she now has the chance to step into a bigger role, if she can win the spot. Patronick says there’s currently no clear favorite for the starter at the moment.
“Right now, it’s anyone’s position, I would say. It’s not locked up who’s going to be startup or backup or anything like that. I’d say that anything could happen.”
The dates for the Blades’ tryout camps will be September 1, 6, 13 and 15. Patronick hopes to have a better idea of what the new and finalized roster will be around the end of September or early October.
Many were looking forward to watching Boston to see how Patronick could shape the roster once she’d had a full year to recruit new members. But without Lacasse in net, the rebuild is going to be put to the test soon, without a gold-medal winning goaltender to bail the team out when they need it. It’s a harsh test for a team that hasn’t been able to catch a break over the last two years.
“It’s the ebb and flow of life, you know?” said Patronick. “Things happen, and you just kind of have to roll with it, and that’s what I’m doing, and I’m actually really excited to see how it comes together.”