Stingers women’s hockey team win championship for the first time since 2005
The Concordia Stingers women’s hockey team wouldn’t have won the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) championship without the help of people outside the team.
“It’s not about the small group of us; it’s a big group,” said head coach Julie Chu. “It wasn’t only the players on the ice who contributed to this success.” She was talking about former head coach Les Lawton, who had to step down before the 2015-16 season for health reasons, which is when Chu took over as head coach.
Some of the Stingers’s stars who helped with this championship, including forwards Claudia Dubois, Sophie Gagnon, Claudia Fortin, defencemen Marie-Joëlle Allard, Caroll-Ann Gagné and goalie Katherine Purchase, were all recruited by Lawton.
“He has a huge hand in this, and he continues to give us good guidance,” Chu added. Lawton joined the Stingers on the ice for their celebration, and many former players and parents offered him congratulations, saying this title was “a long time coming.”
The last time the Stingers won the championship was in 2005. Between then and 2017, the Stingers didn’t even play in the RSEQ final. They returned last year for the first time in over a decade, losing in two games against the McGill Martlets.
“Last year, we missed that opportunity [to win a championship]. We were so high after the first round, we weren’t prepared for the finals,” Chu said. “We learned from that experience.”
The Stingers looked like a different team from the final a year ago, when the Martlets dominated them. Concordia had trouble generating any chances, and was even shutout in game two at home. This year, against the Université de Montréal Carabins, they lost on the road in game one in overtime, 3-2, and didn’t want to repeat last year’s fate.
“We had our backs against the wall [after game one],” said forward Audrey Belzile after their 3-2 win in game two. “We didn’t have a choice. We had to put everything on the ice. Every player’s mentality switched, and we wanted to show them that game one was not our best hockey.”
The Stingers showed the Carabins their best hockey for the rest of the series, dominating game two. In game three, despite being tied 1-1 after two periods, the Stingers came out buzzing to start the final frame, scoring two goals in the first five minutes, eventually winning 3-1.
They played shutdown defence for the rest of the game, and fifth-year forward Alexandria D’Onofrio showed how badly the Stingers wanted to win by blocking multiple shots. The Stingers have come a long way since D’Onofrio’s rookie year in 2013-14, when they went 5-15-0.
“Our bench celebrated like she scored a goal,” Chu said, referring to when D’Onofrio blocked a shot. “Those are huge moments to build momentum and keep opponents at bay, just as big as a goal.”
In the final moments of game three, D’Onofrio blocked another shot. The players, as well as friends and family of the Stingers who had made the trip to Université de Montréal’s CEPSUM Arena, knew the Stingers would win, and everyone was on their feet. When the clock hit zero, the team spilled onto the ice to swarm Purchase and celebrate the trophy they worked all season for. Their friends and family joined them on the ice for the celebration, making one big Stingers family party.
“This was about Concordia hockey today, and about our team coming together as a family and executing in the end,” Chu said. “That’s what I’m proud of.”
Stingers athletics director D’Arcy Ryan presented the team with the trophy, making them the second Stingers team to win a championship this season.
“It’s fantastic to see all the hard work the team puts in,” Ryan said. “It’s rewarding for them, and rewarding for the faculty and staff who are out supporting them.”
The Stingers will now play at nationals in London, Ont., from March 15 to 18. They finished fourth at nationals last year.
Photos by Mackenzie Lad.