An exciting season came to its heartbreaking conclusion on Saturday afternoon for the Stingers men’s hockey team, who will be watching the CIS post-season.
Facing the Carleton Ravens, and needing a single point coupled with a Queen’s loss, the Stingers were blanked 7-0 by a Ravens team that had already locked up a playoff spot in the OUA East.
Though Queen’s lost on Saturday against Nipissing, they still held the tie-breaker over Concordia, which was goal differential in the two teams’ head-to-head match-ups. Concordia defeated Queen’s 6-1 earlier in the year, but a 9-2 loss was what inevitably gave Queen’s the final playoff berth.
Missing out in such a close fashion makes it easy to nitpick every goal or loss, but a few games stand out more than others for Stingers Coach Kevin Figsby.
“There’s probably three games this season I’d like to have back,” said Figsby, identifying a particularly frustrating December loss to Ottawa where the Stingers had their seemingly tying goal disallowed. “There were a few games this year where I thought the players didn’t compete as hard as they needed to and I told them going into those games that those are the types of games that bite you in the ass. And we got bit in the ass, and that’s the sign of a young team.”
Unlike the veteran teams it faced down the stretch, Concordia was stocked with first- and second-year players, many of whom felt the weight of the playoff
“When you come into this league as a 20-year-old, you’re facing guys [who have been in the league for five years], that have been where you are, so there is a learning curve there,” said Figsby.
He is also trying to not get frustrated by the fact that Concordia would have qualified, quite easily, for the playoffs if they were in the OUA West. He does think, though, that it is time for the OUA to look at making some changes to the present system that was created when the landscape of OUA hockey was much different.
“The part that’s frustrating is to see how balanced the league has become, and see no changes to allow for the balance,” said Figsby. “The structure was created [to allow for weaker teams to compete], but we’re well past that.”
The end of a season for any team, especially at the collegiate level, often means saying goodbye to some familiar faces. For Figsby, missing the playoffs is as much disappointing from a personal level as a competitive level.
“The disappointing part is that we’re not going to be together everyday,” he said. “It’s the most disappointing because you come in and there’s a group of guys that are committed to each other and when the season ends you know some guys aren’t coming back and you’re not going to see them.”
If Concordia can keep the core of its team together, it will be a dangerous squad next year, especially if it can improve defensively and the three rookie goalies develop after playing a full season.
Figsby did mention, though, that a few players are in talks with professional clubs, primarily in Europe, but would not release the players’ names at this stage of negotiations.
It will undoubtedly be a long off-season for Concordia, but if Figsby can land some of the recruits he has his eyes on, and the team keeps its core together, McGill may not be the only team in this city with championship expectations.