Jocelyne Larocque and Renata Fast rarely left the ice during Toronto’s first home victory in the Professional Women’s Hockey League on Friday night.
If the two Canadian national team defensemen weren’t on the ice together in Toronto’s 2-0 win over New York, head coach Troy Ryan made sure there were at least some one during the match.
“They are incredibly fit physically and they are so honest,” said Ryan, who celebrated his 52nd birthday in style in front of 2,506 spectators at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. “We ask them if they can go.”
And Fast and Larocque generally answer yes.
Natalie Spooner scored twice while Kristen Campbell made 18 saves to earn her first PWHL shutout as Toronto topped New York (2-4-1) 30-18.
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Preventing goals hasn’t been a problem early in the season for Toronto thanks to Larocque, 35, and Fast, 29. They remember the first time they met at a national team camp in Calgary ten years ago.
“I remember noticing her skating right away,” said Larocque, Toronto’s oldest player. “I found out she was still in college and I thought the future would be bright for the Canadian team for a long time.”
The two were paired for an exhibition match a few days later.
“She wrote me a note telling me how excited she was that we were playing together,” Fast said. “She said in the note to keep things simple.”
Fast was the first to sign with the PWHL team, then Toronto drafted Larocque, knowing the two had to stay together.
“I went to the draft to offer my support to our draft picks,” Fast said. “But I also knew it was part of our plan to recruit Jocelyne.”
Despite the age difference, the two men became close friends. It also didn’t matter that Larocque grew up in Sainte-Anne, Quebec, and that Fast was from Hamilton.
“She’s such a leader and so easy to get along with,” Fast said. “We are like-minded and spend a lot of time off the ice.
In addition to Fast’s speed and offensive skills, Larocque combines good positional play with an uncanny ability to read plays.
“We have great chemistry,” Larocque said. “I feel like I can play my own game with her because I know she will always be there to support me.”
Larocque provided some offense Friday, helping Spooner score his final power play goal in the third period.
Larocque fired a shot from the back boards that flew toward Spooner on the side of the net. It didn’t take long for her to score her fifth goal in eight games.
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There was little offense in the first 20 minutes, although New York had two power plays and Toronto had one.
Spooner gave Toronto a 1-0 advantage. She received a pass up the middle from Hannah Miller, burst onto the wing and deposited a nifty feint between Schroeder’s pads.
This was the third meeting between Toronto and New York. New York won the season opener on the road 4-0 on January 1. Toronto won in New York 3-2 four nights later.
Affair of the stars
New York hosts Minnesota on Sunday, while Toronto hosts Minnesota on February 3.
The full schedule of PWHL games broadcast on CBC Sports this season is available here.