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Turning it around at the end of the season

by Alexander Cole March 7, 2017
Turning it around at the end of the season

Fresh off winning RSEQ Coach of the Year, Julie Chu talks about her team’s season

After winning only three of the team’s first 10 games, the Concordia Stingers women’s hockey team was able to turn their season around and win seven of their last 10 games, cementing themselves as a real contender in their division.

“I think the biggest part is focusing on one day at a time,” Stingers head coach Julie Chu said. “In the fall, when you’re not winning, you can get off track really easily. But we have a great team dynamic that allows us to continue to work hard even when things get tough.”

In a division with powerhouses such as the Université de Montréal Carabins and the McGill Martlets, winning can be tough. There are five teams in the division which means in a 20 game season, you see each team five times.

In the beginning of the season, the team struggled to beat teams like the Carabins and the Martlets. However, after a few adjustments going into the last stretch of the season, the Stingers were able to pull off some big wins.

The biggest of those wins occurred just a week ago when the Stingers swept the Carabins in the first round of the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) division playoffs. Having won the U SPORTS championship the year before, the Carabins were heavily favoured. However, the Stingers pulled off the upset, thanks to their hard work and attention to detail.

“We do a lot of video sessions as a team to breakdown the areas that we want to improve on and also look at what we do well,” Chu said. “Players are welcome every week to look at videos individually, and it’s been a huge tool for us to teach players what they have to do in order to make good decisions on the ice.”

The team’s ability to beat the Carabins is also a testament to their trust in the system Chu has put into place. Despite a rough first half of the year, Chu said her team stayed the course and was able to execute in the latter half of the season.

Julie Chu won RSEQ Coach of the Year after a 10-9-1 season. Photo by Brianna Thicke.

With strong performances from everyone on the team—not just its star players—Chu said the team showed plenty of character.

“It was great to see our players step up in the series,” Chu said. “There were a lot of shutdown plays from our defence, and everyone fills a role. Some roles get more recognition than others because they require a goal or a save, but it doesn’t mean one role is more important than the other.

The win against the Carabins gave the team a spot in the RSEQ final against the McGill Martlets. In that series, the team eventually lost in two games, but worked hard through the series.

The team’s trip to the conference finals was their first since 2005. Their game-one win against the Carabins was their first playoff win since 2006. Making the conference final also cemented the team’s spot at nationals this year, which hosts eight teams featuring the two best from each conference.

“One of our goals was finishing top two in the RSEQ because we knew that would bring us to nationals,” Chu said. “One of the biggest challenges is that, with all the milestones we achieved, it feels like a mini-championship in itself. But with nationals three weeks away, we can’t think about that now—we have to look at what’s in front of us.”

Before the team’s playoff series against the Carabins, Chu was named RSEQ Coach of the Year. While the honour is an individual one, Chu said it’s her team and the rest of her coaching staff that have helped turn the team into what they are today.

“We have an incredible coaching staff here and this award is a testament to them, so I can’t take the credit,” Chu said. “My name might be on the certificate but it’s really about all of our coaches and, ultimately, our team going out and executing. You can have great coaches who run great practices and systems but you need a team that’s going to buy in, and if the team hadn’t, we wouldn’t be talking about this.”

No matter what happens at nationals, the Stingers have had one of their best seasons in the last decade and, with a strong staff behind them, the future is bright.

As Chu reiterated, the whole season has truly been a team effort.

“I know, for me, the people I am surrounded by are absolutely tremendous and a huge reason why our team has gotten so many recognitions this year,” said Chu.

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