The men’s hockey team is closing up their season, with only four home games left before the playoffs. A tough week saw the Stingers lose a close game against the UniversitÃ© du QuÃ©bec Ã Trois-RiviÃ¨res Patriotes 4-2 on Wednesday, dominate the play in a 2-0 victory over the Ottawa Gee-Gees on Saturday, but fall to McGill in a sloppy 11-0 game on Sunday.
With Concordia’s size (20 out of 28 players on the roster are over 6-0), it’s rare that the Stingers will go into a corner and not come out with the puck. They used their strong board battles and breakout passes to dictate the pace of the game against UQTR on Wednesday. The Stingers opened scoring at 9:48 of the first when Nicolas Sciangula ripped a backhander glove-side, top shelf. The Patriotes evened it up a few minutes later and the game was tied at one going into the second. The Stingers were the bigger team on the ice and matched the Patriotes’ dreaded speed for all of the first period, but a heated rivalry between the two teams led to lots of hacks and pleasantries exchanged during the game. The usual unflappable but tough game the Stingers are reputed for seemed to escape them, as they took the bait the Patriotes threw and were suckered into some uncharacteristic penalties.
UQTR took a lead 2-1 with just three seconds left in the second period, and the goal seemed to change the pace of the game.
“I thought we battled hard, but that goal took our momentum away,” Stingers head coach Kevin Figsby said, “we got away from the game plan.”
A lack of discipline by the Stingers and cheap shots after the whistle by both teams led to a heated third period. UQTR took advantage of a failed clearing attempt by Stingers rookie Kyle Kelly and buried the puck to make the score 3-1. Another quick goal by the Patriotes led them to a daunting 4-1 advancement. One last goal by the Stingers in the dying seconds of the game seemed like a futile attempt, and the final score was 4-2.
Concordia rebounded in time for their game in Ottawa on Friday. A much more disciplined, confident team took the ice and battled their division opponents.
“We dominated the game from start to finish,” Figsby said, “we knew coming here that it was a must-win game, and we played some must-win hockey.”
Solid north-south hockey was the story of the first period, with few penalties and good scoring opportunities. Veteran Stingers goaltender, Maxime Joyal, looked to be in top shape after recovering from a recent injury that put him out for a few crucial games.
Rookie George Lovatsis opened scoring for the Stingers 2:01 into the second period, off an assist from Nicholas Goyens. Some unfortunate stick penalties left Concordia shorthanded for most of the third period, but an incredible effort from the penalty killing unit kept the Stingers in the game.
“Our penalty killing was extraordinary,” Figsby said, “we played almost flawlessly. We dominated the shot clock, we didn’t give up a goal on our penalty kill. We did exactly what we wanted to do.”
With the score still at a close 1-0 late in the third, Stingers captain Marc-AndrÃ© Element came through with the money shot, with less than a minute to go in the game. On a power play, Element crashed the net and whacked furiously at the puck until it ricocheted off another player and into the net. His elation was evident as he exuberantly raised his arms and gave his usual celebratory fist pump on his knees.
With the healthy mix of veterans and rookies finally starting to gel, the team is developing a dangerously competitive chemistry.
“A lot of guys stepped up tonight,” Figsby said, “rookies and veterans. They all worked hard and followed the game plan, and it led to success.”
The Stingers play at home against UQTR on Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. They also play at home against RMC on Friday, Feb. 5 at 7:30 p.m. and again on Saturday, Feb. 6 at 2 p.m. against Carleton.