After finishing second in OUA conference last season, the head coach wants a championship this year
Returning head coach of the Concordia Stingers men’s hockey team, Marc-André Élement, plans on taking his team all the way to a championship this year.
“We want to win the championship, and we have the players in place to do it,” he said.
After his team’s successful run to the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) quarter-final last year, Élement said he believes his team is ready to put up a fight against the conference’s top teams. “We’re bigger and we’re ready to play a physical game,” Élement said.
Last season, the Stingers finished second in the East Division of the OUA conference with a record of 19-7-2. They defeated the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks in the first round of the playoffs, making it the first time the Stingers advanced to the second round in 16 years. They lost in the second round to the Queen’s University Gaels.
This off-season, Élement set out to recruit the best players he could get his hands on to improve his team. Defenceman Carl Neill joined the Stingers this season. He was drafted in the fifth round by the Vancouver Canucks in 2015. His presence will have an immediate impact on their blue line.
Despite finishing second in their division last year, Élement insisted there is room for improvement with the team’s defensive game—an area where the Stingers struggled collectively. Out of the top four teams in the East Division of the OUA, the Stingers allowed the most goals against, with 75.
“We want to limit our opponents’ time and space with the puck,” Élement said. “We want to always be in their face.”
The Stingers signed forwards Massimo Carozza and Alexis Pépin, who both played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) last year. Pépin last played for the Val d’Or Foreurs, and was a fourth-round pick of the Colorado Avalanche in 2014. Carozza last played in junior for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. Both players are expected to add firepower up front, as they both averaged over 0.6 points per game in the QMJHL.
The team has also added a new goaltender to the mix. Julio Billia, who is presently injured, will be battling to be the starting goalie against second-year goalie Marc-Antoine Turcotte throughout the season. Billia spent his last five seasons playing for the Chicoutimi Saguenéens in the QMJHL. Élement said Billia is a big asset to the Stingers.
The coach also has high expectations for returning forwards Philippe Sanche and Anthony Beauregard to lead the Stingers in their offensive game. Sanche finished with 30 points in 26 games last season, and Beauregard finished with 19 points in 12 games. The team finished with the second-most goals in the league with 118, and Élement hopes they can carry their scoring over to this season.
“We want to [beat] other teams with our speed,” Élement said. “We want to promote university hockey, and we want to be at the top of our league.”
But the Stingers will have to find ways to score without former captain Olivier Hinse, who is now playing pro hockey in Denmark. He scored 17 goals and had 11 assists in 23 games last season. Concerning the team’s leadership void, Philippe Hudon will be the captain for the Stingers. Sanche, Raphaël Lafontaine, Alexandre Gosselin and Dominic Beauchemin will be the assistant captains.
The second-year head coach has prepared his team for the season since August. In seven pre-season games, the Stingers had a record of 4-2-1. But now it’s time for the regular season.
“We’ve had a hard training camp and we are going to be ready for the beginning of the season,” Élement said.
The Stingers kick off their season on the road against the McGill Redmen on Oct. 13.
Main photo by Kirubel Mehari.