Coach says team learned “everything” after last season’s fourth-place finish
After defeating the Université de Montréal Carabins in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) final on March 4, the Concordia Stingers women’s hockey team is returning to the U Sports national championship. This will be the second-straight trip to nationals for the Stingers. They hope to improve on their fourth-place finish from last season.
— Matthew Coyte (@MatthewCoyte16) March 4, 2018
This time, the Stingers are in an unfamiliar position—they’re among the favourites to win.
“The team’s looking strong right now,” said head coach Julie Chu. “This is a good week off where we get to reset and refocus, get our energy and emotions back and get geared up for nationals.”
One of the more difficult aspects of the national championship for the Stingers will be preparing to face teams they haven’t seen at all this season.
“We’re breaking down videos of them,” Chu said. “We’re doing that for the seven other teams so that whoever we end up playing, we have at least a sense of what their power play is, what their penalty kill is, what their structure and tendencies might be. We know how to make our adjustments. Our girls are going to be prepared.”
The Stingers will be up against the top teams in the country, and could eventually face the top-ranked University of Manitoba Bisons in the semi-final. The Bisons finished the regular season 22-2-0, and won the Canada West title.
The Bisons knocked off the University of Alberta Pandas, the defending national champions, in the playoffs this season. The Bisons are led by the scoring duo of Jordyn Zacharias and Alanna Sharman, who both recorded 21 points in 33 games. Zacharias had six game-winning goals this season.
Watching scout videos will be less important if the Stingers face off against the Carabins. The memory of those eight games against Montréal this year, including the RSEQ final earlier this month, is probably still fresh in the mind of the players and coaching staff. With the Stingers beating the Carabins to claim the title, the Carabins would be eager to repay the favour at nationals.
The Stingers surprised many at nationals last season. After going into the championship tournament as the seventh seed, the Stingers made their way to the bronze-medal game. They lost that game 2-0 to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.
Chu said the team learned “everything” after that championship run last season.
“We hadn’t been to nationals in 12 years, but we believed that we could win. But we still needed to develop a lot of the experience of going through [nationals]. Everyone, coaches included, are in such a better place in knowing what to expect,” said Chu about the 2017 nationals. “It’s never fun to lose, but sometimes you need to go through certain things so you know that you can handle it.”
After claiming their first RSEQ title in 13 years, the Stingers now face higher expectations at nationals. Concordia will face off against the fifth-ranked St-Francis Xavier X-Women on March 16, having been placed as the fourth seed in the tournament. This year, nationals will be hosted in London, Ont., from March 15 to 18.
Main photo by Mackenzie Lad.