Hockey

Caroline Ouellette on verge of CWHL history

Caroline Ouellette's teammates are ready. They want her to have a memento of the women's hockey history she's about to make.

Montreal native is 1 goal shy of becoming league's all-time leading goal scorer

Caroline Ouellette is one goal away from becoming the all-time leading goal scorer in CWHL history. (Louis-Charles Dumais/The Canadian Press)

Caroline Ouellette's teammates are ready. They want her to have a memento of the women's hockey history she's about to make.

Ouellette is a goal away from becoming the all-time leading goal scorer in the Canadian Women's Hockey League. At 130 goals, the Montreal Canadiennes forward is tied with retired Brampton Thunder forward Jayna Hefford.

Les Canadiennes have four games remaining this season, including a two-game series at home Saturday and Sunday against the Toronto Furies.

If she scores that landmark goal, Ouellette likely won't think to grab the puck for posterity, says her teammate Lauriane Rougeau.

"She won't go get it," Rougeau told the Canadian Press. "I think we're all going to be fighting for who is going to get the puck for her."

Ouellette plays for love of game

The trophies, medals and milestones aren't what keeps Ouellette playing.

The 38-year-old Montreal native feels a sense of stewardship to both her team and the women's league to raise their profiles in the hockey world. But Ouellette flat-out still loves to play.

"I love the emotions of being in really close games and being able to contribute to the success of my team by either making a great offensive play or making a great backcheck or blocking a shot," Ouellette said.

"That feeling you get as an athlete, those goose bumps you can get when an important goal is scored, when you love your team so much and you want to win together, I think that's what I'm going to be missing the most when I retire."

Proud moment

Ouellette already set a new benchmark in the CWHL by becoming the first player to reach a career 300 points Dec. 11. She contributed a pair of assists in a 5-3 win over the Calgary Inferno, who are the defending Clarkson Cup champions.

She'd been held off the scoresheet the previous day in a 1-0 shootout win over Inferno in front of nearly 6,000 at the Bell Centre in her hometown.

The televised game in the home of the NHL's Canadiens was part of the CWHL's 10-year anniversary celebrations. That game was more important to Ouellette than any record.

"We worked so hard to promote that game and for me, it was a big test for female hockey," Ouellette said. "That was one of the proudest moments of my career."

True pioneer

The five-foot-11, 170-pound forward has played for Montreal's CWHL club since the league's inception in 2007.

Ouellette has 15 goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season for Les Canadiennes (14-4-2). She's among the players invited to play in the CWHL's all-star game Feb. 11 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

"Caro is like a wine that gets better with age," Rougeau said. "She's a competitor. You see it every time we've played this season. She wants to get the next goal and it reflects on her career stats."

Ouellette has won three Clarkson Cups that go to the CWHL champions (2009, 2011 and 2012). She now has 308 points in 168 career games.

"It means I've been there for awhile," Ouellette said. "It makes me reflect on a very fortunate, long career where I truly enjoyed every moment and I still do. That's why I'm still playing."

One of Canada's best

She's one of five athletes in the world to win Olympic gold medals in four straight Winter Games alongside Canadian teammates Hayley Wickenheiser, who retired last month, and Hefford.

Ouellette ranks third all-time in points on the national team behind those two women with 87 goals and 155 assists in 220 games.

How long she'll keep playing is a "year by year" decision.

"I think I'm going to transition into coaching and I've already started that," Ouellette said. "The goal one day would be to go back to the national team as a coach."

NWHL moves up playoff schedule

The National Women's Hockey League is adjusting its schedule in order to complete the playoffs in March before players leave for the world championships.

The regular season will now end in mid-march and the playoffs will be concluded on March 19, the second-year league announced Thursday. The original schedule included a three-week break before the end of the season and the start of the playoffs in late April.

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