Head coach says trip to nationals has been a long time coming for the Stingers
For the first time since 1984, the Concordia Stingers men’s hockey team is going to the U Sports national championship.
“I haven’t been this far in playoffs in a very long time, so this is quite special for me,” said captain Philippe Hudon. “What are we now? One of the top eight teams in the nation right now […] It’s huge for the program, and it’s huge for all of us.”
The Stingers qualified for nationals after beating the York Lions 3-2 in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) bronze-medal game on March 9 at the Ed Meagher Arena. The University of New Brunswick (UNB) hosts the tournament in Fredericton from March 15 to 18, which features three teams from the OUA, three from Atlantic University Sport (AUS) and two from the Canada West conference.
Head coach Marc-André Élement said he has been waiting to qualify for nationals ever since he played for the Stingers from 2007 to 2011.
“I’m really happy and really excited,” Élement said. “We have a good culture and a good base, and you can say we’re one of the top teams in the country.”
Throughout the season, and more recently during the playoffs, both Hudon and Élement have talked about how well the whole team gets along on and off the ice.
“At the beginning of 2018, I stood up in the [locker] room, which is something I normally don’t do, and said, ‘We have a special group of guys,’” Hudon told reporters after game one of the OUA East final against the McGill Redmen. “I’m very fortunate to be a part of this group. With all of the people we have, we just have to put everything in the same basket and just keep pushing. ”
Even though the Stingers eventually lost that OUA East final against the Redmen in three games and settled for bronze, Hudon hasn’t changed his thoughts about his team. After the bronze-medal win, he said he and his teammates will give their full effort at nationals because they are proud to be Stingers.
“I’m going on an adventure with 20-odd of my brothers, so it’s going to be a hell of a ride,” Hudon said. “It’s the last few games of the season, so if we’re not giving our all, that trip won’t mean anything.”
The Stingers have been building towards this since Élement took over as head coach prior to the 2015-16 season. He has recruited top players, including second-year forward Anthony Beauregard, who scored 60 points this season. The Stingers are a young team, with 14 players in their first or second year, and four players in the fourth year. Élement credits the team’s veteran leadership for their success, and said Hudon has been an amazing leader.
“I have to give him the credit,” Élement said. “He’s doing a great job as a leader of the team, and he’s well-respected. This is why we’re having success.”
Rookie forward Jean-Philippe Beaulieu said the team learns from leaders like Hudon, who has scored 12 points in nine playoff games.
“We’ve been together since August, and we’ve built something as a group and as a team,” Beaulieu said.
The Stingers are ranked as the eighth seed, and will play the UNB Varsity Reds on March 15 in the quarter-final of the national championship.
“We’re going there to cause a surprise,” Élement added. “I just want my guys to battle every night.”
Main photo by Alex Hutchins.