A road game against the Brampton Thunder at Century Gardens provided a pair of Montreal Stars rookies with a lifetime of memories. Forward Emilie Bocchia and goaltender Meghan Corley-Byrne both experienced milestones in a game that will truly be part of Stars lore.
Selected in the sixth round of the 2013 CWHL Draft (24th overall), Bocchia was followed by Corley-Byrne in the seventh round (29th overall). With a season that would be turned on its head due to the defection of talent for the Sochi Winter Games, Bocchia and Corley-Byrne were part of a handful of Stars rookies that would have an opportunity to contribute.
With longtime Stars veteran goaltenders Kim St. Pierre and Jenny Lavigne both pregnant, Corley-Byrne has found herself guarding the Stars crease along with Catherine Herron. Making her CWHL debut on November 30, Corley-Byrne played with all the poise of a veteran.
The first frame found the Stars take a commanding 2-0 lead on the strength of goals by Dominique Thibault and team captain Cathy Chartrand. After a second period that had no scoring, Corley-Byrne was working on a shutout. She would display great poise between the pipes as she nullified four Brampton power plays.
Having already turned away 13 Brampton shots through two periods of play, Corley-Byrne got some help from another rookie in the final frame. Competing in her fourth career CWHL game, Bocchia would score her first CWHL goal. Of note, it would also stand as the first point of her career. Assisted by former Canadian National Team member and CrossFit competitor Emmanuelle Blais, she would bury the puck past Jamie Miller at 14:39 of the third.
Another third period goal by the Stars (logged by Sarah Vaillancourt) would result in a 4-0 final for the visiting team. While Corley-Byrne would earn her first win in her CWHL debut, she also earned the rare distinction of having logged a shutout in her debut as well.
Both of these rookie sensations come into their inaugural CWHL seasons with strong skills and team-first qualities. Having played for the legendary Les Lawton at Concordia University, Bocchia is a fundamentally sound player. With 12 points in her final season of CIS play for the Concordia Stingers, it was a solid season complemented by disciplined play with only 6 penalty minutes. One of her finest games with the program came in January 2012 when she scored a goal in each period of a 4-3 loss to the Ottawa Gee-Gees. Ironically, Gee-Gees captain Fannie Desforges is a fellow rookie on the Stars. Bocchia would be recognized as Concordia’s female athlete of the week.
Her time at Concordia was enriched by the fact that she was surrounded by two members of the Stars. Caroline Ouellette, the all-time scoring leader in Stars history, was an assistant coach during her senior season with the Stingers. In addition, Stars founder and former captain with the Stingers, Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux has coached and trained Bocchia since her earliest years. Being surrounded by two such strong influences makes Bocchia a quality pick for the Stars.
Having been raised in Canada’s capital region, Meghan Corley-Byrne is part of a growing group of phenomenal women’s players hailing from Ottawa. While she stood between the pipes for Mount Allison University, she would be recognized as one of the university’s Most Outstanding Senior Athletes.
With Mount Allison, she was not only her team’s rookie of the year, but a multiple Atlantic University Sport All-Star selection (including two first team selections). A workhorse goaltender that played over 1,000 minutes in the 2011-12 CIS season, she would also post a sparkling 1.85 goals against average and a .937 save percentage.
As the Stars look to redeem themselves for a visceral loss in the 2013 Clarkson Cup finals, Bocchi and Corley-Byrne may prove to be a big factor in the team’s success for 2014. Providing their teammates with a strong desire to succeed, the future is now for these two rookie sensations.
Image obtained from Montreal CWHL website