Men’s hockey team pushes cross-town rivals to the brink but can’t complete the upset
Playoff hockey began last Wednesday, Feb. 11, for the Concordia Stingers men’s hockey team as they faced their local rivals the McGill Redmen in the first of a three-game series.
Hosted by McGill at McConnell Arena, the eighth-seeded Stingers exemplified that they were a resilient club, beating their first-placed counterparts 6-4 in what was a spirited opening tilt.
“We certainly followed the game plan to a tee and that got us a win,” said Stingers Head Coach Kevin Figsby on the team’s execution.
Highlighting the game was the combined effort from Stingers Captain Olivier Hinse and Forward Jessyko Bernard, who each recorded three points in the victory. Hinse, who notched two power play goals, led the Stingers in scoring with 18 goals and 31 points in 26 regular season games.
Concordia took a 4-1 lead through the midway mark of the third before the Redmen responded, scoring two goals within six minutes of play and cutting Concordia’s lead to just one.
McGill marked their fourth goal of the evening with just 14 seconds left on the clock, but it was too little too late for any light of a comeback.
Game two of the series took place at the Ed Meagher Arena where an electrified Concordia crowd presented a true playoff atmosphere.
The game itself did not meet the crowd’s expectations as McGill validated their first place standings and stung the Stingers with a 5-0 victory.
“It was symptomatic tonight, we‘ve had series in the season where we play great for a few games straight, then we have a mental letdown. Tonight I just don’t think our give-a-damn metre was high enough,” said Figsby.
The Redmen presented a style of play that was full of urgency, commanding a 4-0 lead after two.
Concordia’s lack of discipline plagued the team as they posted 31 penalty minutes on 10 infractions, costing the Stingers valuable even-strength hockey.
The Redmen recorded their fifth goal midway through the third, keeping the game out of reach and sending the series to a winner-takes-all finale.
The stage was set at the McConnell Arena for the third and final showdown between the two squads.
Both clubs presented will and grit once the rubber was dropped, but McGill prevailed on home ice, taking the deciding game 6-3.
“I think we scared the shit out of them with that first win in the first game and what it did was give our guys a lot of confidence to know that as we grow and develop as a team and as a program then we can compete with the top teams,” said Figsby.
Concordia struck first, scoring off a rebound that forward Ben Dubois found for the 1-0 early lead. It only took two minutes before McGill’s regular season point leader Cedric McNicoll found a bouncing puck in front of Concordia’s goal and scored the equalizer.
On a Redmen possession at the 11:00 minute mark, an initial shot caused Stingers netminder Robin Billingham to be out of position, allowing forward Mathieu Pompei to tuck the puck in from the left side, putting McGill ahead 2-1 to end the first.
Concordia started the second with strong possession time, but a McGill clear took an awkward bounce in the corner that sent the puck right in front of the Stingers goal where Redmen David Rose capitalized, extending McGill’s lead by two.
With six minutes into the second period, a streaking Pietro Antonelli came out of the box, outskated Concordia’s defense, cut towards the crease and made a one-handed backhand move to notch McGill’s fourth unanswered goal.
With just less than 30 seconds left in the second period, Ben Dubois dropped a pass to Philippe Hudon who sent a clapper into the mesh, cutting McGill’s lead to 4-2.
The third began with the highest emotional level of the series, but McGill’s defensive unit hardly gave Concordia any room to operate.
Just past the midway mark of the frame, a shot from the right corner deflected through backup Goalie Alexandre St-Arnaud and put the Redmen up 5-2.
Stingers forward Danny Potvin made a great effort to find the back of the net off a quick rush, putting Concordia back within two, but an empty net goal erased any hopes of a comeback.
“These guys persevered through. In 20 years from now when those guys all gather together no one is going to worry about tonight, they’re going to worry about the four or five years that they’ve spent together as friends and what it meant to have that opportunity given to them by Concordia University to play at one of the highest levels of amateur hockey in the world,” said Figsby.