From IIHF News@1:266/404 to All on Thu Apr 5 07:39:21 2018
Marion Allemoz's club season ended earlier than she wanted, but the 28-year-old
Frenchwoman is hoping for a happy international ending on home ice.
In the best-of-three Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) semi-finals, her Montreal Canadiennes - the defending champions - lost two straight games to the
eventual Clarkson Cup champion Markham Thunder. It was a tough ending for a stacked squad with star goalie Emerance Maschmeyer, four-time Olympic champion Caroline Ouellette, and late addition Hilary Knight from the U.S.
However, Allemoz, who has captained the French national team since 2009, can now focus on earning promotion to the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship in Finland.
The 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship Division I Group A tournament takes place from 8 to 14 April in Vaujany, a southeastern French ski
resort town near where this veteran forward grew up in Chambery.
"For us, it's really a plus to play at home," Allemoz said. "It's always a pleasure. We're used to it. We've already had three World Championship tournaments at home."
In her second season with Montreal, she posted new personal CWHL bests with four goals and nine assists in 28 games. With the national team, however, she's
historically a point-per-game player in Division I Group A competition with 13 goals and seven assists in 20 games.
Uncharacteristically, Allemoz was held pointless when France came last in the 2017 Division I Group A tournament in Austria, getting outscored 12-1 in five straight losses. (The French are only back in Division I Group A due to the expansion of the top division that sees no teams relegated in 2017 and 2018.)
"It was really a disappointment," Allemoz said. "We definitely had our chances to score, but we couldn't. Psychologically, when we couldn't score for a couple
of games, I think it got in our heads. The work effort was there. It's something we've worked on this year."
In a group that also features Austria, Denmark, Hungary, Norway and Slovakia, who presents the biggest threat to France's hopes in 2018?
"I'd say everybody is dangerous. This year the level is very tight. I know the Austrians have a good offence. They've had good results in the past as well. But everybody in this division can beat everyone else. It'll be tight games."
That's the voice of experience speaking. Allemoz is a pioneer in this sport. She became the first Frenchwoman to play top-level Canadian women's university hockey when she joined the Montreal Carabins in 2012.
She won CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) titles with the Carabins in 2013 and 2016. Jumping to the CWHL, she added a Clarkson Cup with the Canadiennes in
2017. It's all helped her take her game to the next level.
"It was a beautiful achievement at university," Allemoz said. "I won two championships there. Plus winning the Clarkson Cup with the Canadiennes, it was
just incredible. I'm happy with what I've been able to do in Canada. I've improved mostly in terms of speed in the game, both with my skating and my physique. There's a rapidity to the game in Canada."
The 170-cm, 73-kg veteran has nothing but good things to say about her top-flight Quebecois teammates, including Ouellette and Marie-Philip Poulin. The latter captained the Canadiennes to the 2017 title - not to mention scoring
the winner in both the 2010 and 2014 Olympic finals. Poulin opted to take the rest of 2017/18 off after settling for silver in PyeongChang behind the Americans.
"Caroline is a great player," Allemoz said. "Look at all the Olympic gold medals she won. Playing with her is truly a great opportunity. And I'd say you learn a lot when you play with a player like Marie-Philip. She's a great captain for the team."
Like everyone in the French hockey community, Allemoz saluted Cristobal Huet's recent decision to retire. The renowned 42-year-old goalie became the first Frenchman to hoist the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks back in 2010. A two-time Olympian, Huet played in 13 top-level IIHF World Championships, ending
his international career on home ice in Paris last year. He just completed his final pro season with Switzerland's Lausanne HC.
"It must have been a tough decision for him to make," Allemoz said. "To put an end to one's career is never easy. But I think every player in France can take an example from his career. Everyone who talks about French hockey makes reference to him. He gave all that he could for the French national team. I think he can retire in tranquillity."
Looking ahead to her next tournament in Vaujany, Allemoz knows she can't do it all by herself. Not even if her favourite pre-game meal of Pasta Bolognese and chicken is on point, or if she feels ready to fly after listening to her favourite Celine Dion hits.
Coach Gregory Tarle's squad will also need great performances from the likes of
goalie Caroline Baldin, who just backstopped the ZSC Lions Zurich to the Swiss title, and forward Emmanuelle Passard, who was second in team scoring (3-3-6) behind Allemoz (5-4-9) in 2016 when France finished second in the group.
Beyond the hot action on the ice, what should motivate people to come to the Division I Group A tournament in Vaujany?
"It's a beautiful region. People enjoy visiting it. It's a region in the mountains with beautiful countryside, with great culture. And good cheese!"
And what makes Allemoz believe that France can get to the elite division for the first time in history?
"I think we have a great team. We've played together for a lot of years. We've been to a lot of competitions and learned from them. We're a competitive bunch.
We're going to take it one game at a time and see what happens."
The 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship Division I Group A will begin on Sunday. Click here for the schedule, long lists and live ticker. A live stream will be available on Fanseat.com.