Despite a sold-out arena, an electrifying crowd, and some NHL scouts looking for upcoming talent, the Concordia men’s hockey team lost their exhibition game against the Swedish National junior team on Friday night. The Stingers managed to keep the score close throughout the first two periods, but ran into some penalty trouble in the third which resulted in an onslaught of goals, leading to a 8-2 loss.
Even though the Stingers lost, head coach Kevin Figsby said: “I can’t remember the last time we had a packed house like this. It’s an amazing experience for all involved.”
The thunderous crowd gave the Stingers a jump in their step; they looked more energized than they have in a while. The energy seemed a bit excessive at times, as they spent most of the game on the penalty kill with five of Sweden’s eight goals coming on the powerplay.
The first tally came at 4:27 of the first period, when Carl Klingberg buried a loose puck from a scuffle in front of the net.
Halfway into the first period, Marcus KrÃ¼ger made a backhanded spin pass through the crease that Anton RÃ¶din capitalized on, to give Sweden a two goal lead.
As a special treat, a shootout took place at the end of the first period to test the abilities of both teams. The skills of both goalies were on display, as none of the six shooters scored.
Sweden scored on a powerplay just 30 seconds into the second period, after Kyle Kelly got caught with a trip. The Stingers finally made their mark halfway through the second, after a cross-crease pass from Kelly connected with veteran Marc-AndrÃ© Rizk’s stick. He banged it home to put the score at 3-1.
The game took a rough turn, as Cory McGillis was ejected with a 10-minute penalty and flagged with misconduct for unsportsmanlike behaviour. After that, with continuous phantom calls against the Stingers, they were constantly on the penalty kill.
Sweden scored again 7:13 into the third period with just two seconds left on a penalty to Rizk. They then scored three quick goals in 30 seconds to make the score a lopsided 7-1. After openly questioning a phantom call, veteran defenceman Jesse Goodsell was thrown out for unsportsmanlike conduct. Down to just four defencemen, the Stingers couldn’t do anything to stop the final Sweden goal from trickling in, but Rizk responded with one last effort with just seven seconds to go in the third, closing the game at 8-2.
“I’m not too worried about the score,” Figsby said. “Tonight was about the life experience for our players; they saw the intensity and skill it takes to play at that level.”
The Swedish National junior team has been in Montreal since Monday, playing exhibition games against Carleton, UQTR, and Concordia, in preparation for the 2010 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championships in December. The team boasts 15 NHL-drafted players, seven of whom were first round picks.
Klingberg, who tallied two goals during the evening, enjoyed the change of pace and the atmosphere the city had to offer. “It’s so beautiful here.”
There was a lot to learn from the different style of hockey, too.
“The game is a lot more north-south here, instead of east-west. That suits me fine, I’m an up-and-down player,” he explained.
When questioned about the physicality of North American hockey, Klingberg’s eyes widened.
“It’s a lot more physical here,” he said. “Guys hit. They aren’t afraid.”
With a bit of a packed schedule, the team hoped to do some sightseeing on their day off on Friday before heading back to Europe on Saturday.
Both teams took a lot out of the game, with the Stingers learning the perhaps more skilled and defined side of the game, while Sweden learned the rock’em sock’em pace of Canadian boys playing their beloved sport.
“We were challenged tonight, it was a good thing,” said Figsby, who has been working on this trip since June.
“It was just a tremendous hockey experience for everyone,” he said.
The Stingers are on the road until Nov. 18, when they return home to face the UQTR Patriotes.