Marc-Antoine Turcotte made 43 saves against Redmen
After an overtime win in game three of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East semi-final on the road against the Queen’s Gaels on Feb. 25, the Concordia Stingers men’s hockey team stole a road game from the McGill Redmen three days later. The Stingers’s 3-1 win gives them a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three OUA East final.
“The first game is the most important game, so we’re looking forward to [game two] and trying to finish it off there, but it won’t be easy,” said Stingers defenceman Matthieu Desautels following the win at McGill’s McConnell Arena on Feb. 28.
The Stingers started slow in the first period, allowing the Redmen to take a 16-3 lead in shots by the first intermission. But Stingers goalie Marc-Antoine Turcotte made key saves to keep the game scoreless until Stingers forward Raphaël Lafontaine scored with two minutes left in the first period to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
“For sure our guys were nervous, it’s our first final,” said Stingers head coach Marc-André Élement. The last time Concordia made it this far in the playoffs was in 1984, while the Redmen lost in the OUA East final a year ago to the Gaels. “[The Redmen] came out really strong, and we were kind of on our heels a little bit.”
However, Stingers captain Philippe Hudon saw his teammates react calmly in the first period. “Honestly, it [wasn’t] different from any other playoff game that we’ve played so far,” Hudon said. “I think we’re just more excited about being able to play McGill in the playoffs, and we just want to stick it to them.”
The Redmen continued dominating in the first half of the second period, but Turcotte continued to make key saves. After every big stop, the McGill crowd gasped, thinking their team had just scored. When they realized Turcotte had stopped the puck from crossing the goal line, they seemed dejected.
“He was the best player on the ice,” Élement said about Turcotte, who made 43 saves in the game. “He’s been amazing all year. We talked a lot about [Anthony] Beauregard being the MVP, but [Turcotte] is right there. He kept us in games all year, and now he deserves all the credit.”
Eventually, Turcotte’s big saves sucked the energy out of the building, and didn’t give the Redmen much of a home-ice advantage. In the third period, the loudest cheers came when two fans—sitting two seats away from each other—caught two pucks that flew into the crowd almost a minute apart.
“We wouldn’t be here without [Turcotte], and we’re lucky to have him.” Desautels said. “Hopefully he plays that well too next game.”
The Stingers started creating more scoring chances in the second half of the second period. With the help of some crisp passing, the Stingers had a stretch of a few minutes when they kept the puck in the Redmen zone, but couldn’t beat goalie Louis-Philip Guindon.
Eventually, with just over three minutes left in the second period, Stingers forward Charles-Éric Légaré deked around a defenceman and fooled Guindon with a backhand to give Concordia a 2-0 lead. The Redmen cut the lead to 2-1 in the final minute of the game, but Hudon scored his third empty-net goal of the playoffs to seal the win.
The Stingers also took game one on the road against Queen’s in the last series, but lost game two at home. Hudon said they need to avoid that home loss so they don’t have to return to McGill on Sunday for game three.
“Against Queen’s, we backed off a bit. We got a little bit scared and had a little bit of nerves,” Hudon said. “It’s just going to be a question of sticking to our gameplan.”
Élement added: “The toughest thing is to win the second game.”
Game two will be on Friday, March 2 at the Ed Meagher Arena at 7:30 p.m.
Main photo by Alex Hutchins.