It was a season of triumph; it was a season of defeat. For the Concordia Stingers’ women’s hockey team, triumphs in 2002-2003 presented Head Coach Les Lawton with his 500th career win.
This season also saw graduating veterans Marie-Claude Allard and Sue Kaye earn a All-Canadian award for the second straight year.
Unfortunately, defeat also marked several parts of this season, ending the year in heartbreak for the Lady Bees.
The season began with a bang. The Stingers started off with a 5-0 shutout over the St. Mary’s Huskies, and went on a five-game non-losing streak for a 4-0-1 record by Oct. 25. On the following day, what plagued the Stingers throughout the season let their name known with a 2-0 win: the McGill Martlets.
One loss versus the Martlets seemed to fuel the Stingers, who won five of their next seven games, including a 20-1 humiliation over the Carleton Ravens.
Despite their improvement on offence, Concordia’s defence was still slightly behind by the end of November.
The Lady Bees’ morale would have been boosted by a win over McGill, but were unable to score in a 2-0 shutout on Nov. 29.
That loss appeared to affect the Stingers during the Christmas break, as the Teresa Humes Invitational Tournament got under way on Jan. 3.
Despite breezing through the round-robin game 3-1 over CEGEP Limoilou, the Stingers had a harder time getting past the Middlebury Panthers in the semi-finals, winning the game 4-3.
The biggest heartbreak came on the final day of the tournament as the Stingers were matched up against the Quebec U-18 All-Star team.
Surprisingly enough, the Quebec All-Star team, composed of players under the age of 18, was evenly matched against the Stingers.
The Stingers rallied throughout the game, but it was too little, too late as they gave up their title by a score of 5-4.
That game displayed that although maturity had its advantages, it still had a lot to go before reaching youth’s ability. “It showed that they were younger than us, because they were faster than us,” Allard commented after the game.
“They took advantage of their speed.”
Speed was something that Coach Lawton incorporated in his training for the team, but it did not have an immediate impact. The Stingers played the Martlets in their first regular-season game of 2003.
Despite having a golden opportunity to win the game since McGill’s all-star goaltender Kim St. Pierre was away at a Team Canada camp, the Concordia squad was unable to pull it together and lost 5-1.
The loss left Lawton virtually speechless. “It’s just one of these days, we just weren’t in sync and it’s a pretty difficult thing to watch as a coach,” Coach Les Lawton explained following the loss. “You spend a lot of time on a lot of small parts of the game, and we didn’t do any of the small things very well today. It’s very humbling.”
In the three games that separated the two Concordia-McGill matchups, the Lady Bees showed a tremendous improvement on defence and especially on their penalty-killing units. The improvement resulted in a three-game winning streak, including one 4-0 shut-out against the UQTR Patriotes.
Their best efforts were fruitless however when the Stingers met with the Martlets on Feb. 2 for the final meet of the season.
Concordia’s defence did a tremendous job batting away the McGill snipers, but the offence was unable to score a goal of their own, resulting in a 1-0 heartbreaking loss.
If this game would have resulted in a win for the Stingers, it also would have represented Coach Lawton’s 500th win.
Lawton did not have to wait too long to reach that milestone however, as his Stingers beat the Patriotes 6-2 only five days later.
As they say, the play-offs are an entirely other season, and the Lady Bees were hit with that harsh reality in the QSSF semi-finals against the Ottawa Gee-Gees. After having beaten the Gee-Gees twice in the span of two weeks, Concordia was hit by a hard-hitting Ottawa team.
Despite rallying from a 5-3 deficit, the Stingers lost the game 7-6 in over-time, ending their season earlier than expected.
This was the first and only time the Lady Bees did not make the annual trip to the CIS Women’s University Hockey Nationals.
With many veteran players such as Allard, Kay, goaltender Jessica Anderson and Leanne Martell graduating this year, it’ll be up to the younger team members to carry the torch.
With power forward Dominique Rancour, defender Lauren Houghton and upcoming goalie Christiane Gauthier gearing up, the 2003-2004 season will surely be the return of Stinger domination in the world of women’s university hockey.