Last year’s season did not end the way the Concordia Stingers had thought it would. The Queen’s Gaels swept the Stingers in the first round of the OUA playoffs after a hard-fought regular season.
On top of the early playoff exit, former captain Philippe Hudon played his last game with the team after five seasons.
Enter Philippe Sanche, who was chosen by head coach Marc-André Element to be the captain of his team for the 2019-20 season.
“It’s a big honour for me,” said Sanche. “Being the captain after [Philippe] Hudon, [Olivier] Hinse, it’s huge.”
Marc-André Element said he took some time over the summer to come to the decision to slap the C on Sanche’s jersey. However, Element feels that the Stingers’ leadership group is one of their main strong points heading into the new campaign, with Carl Neill and Alexandre Gosselin serving as assistant captains.
“We have an amazing leadership group, chemistry and players,” said Element. “There’s going to be an adjustment [for some], but they’ll figure it out pretty fast that we can’t take any nights off in this league.”
While Sanche adjusts to the role of captain, new recruits will have to adjust to a new team, league and even city; four of the new wave of players from the Stingers are from out of province. However, Sanche believes they are already being integrated into the team nicely.
Neill, who led the team in points last year and is now entering his third year, also expressed how his off-ice role has changed into more of a mentor-like figure for the new and young team.
“There’s a lot of young guys coming in and I’m just trying to get them adjusted to the atmosphere,” said Neill. “The quicker the team meshes together, the more success we’ll have so it’s about showing them the ins and outs [on and off the ice.]”
The Stingers have a good mindset heading into this season. They know where their strengths lie, what needs to be improved on, and what they can build off of. One of the areas of improvement that needed to be addressed was size.
The OUA is a very physical conference. Last season, the average height and weight of a Stingers player was 5’11 and 187lbs, which ranked 18th and 15th, respectively, among the 20 teams in the conference. To address that, the average height and weight of the nine new recruits listed on eliteprospects.com, is 6’1 and 198 lbs.
“We’re more [well rounded] this year,” said Sanche. “Last year we played really fast but struggled against bigger teams. This year we will be more physical and be able to better protect ourselves.”
Along with Philippe Hudon, other notable departures on the offensive side of the squad are left-winger Charles-Éric Légaré and center Hugo Roy. Those are some big shoes to fill as they accounted for over 30 per cent of the team’s scoring.
Sanche will be a big part of filling in these big shoes. Sanche has always been one of the team’s main goal scorers, lighting the lamp 38 times in his three seasons as a Stinger.
While the team did recruit Jeff de Wit and Alexander Katerinakis, among others, who have shown their ability to add scoring, they know that they will need a greater contribution from their defence; from players like Carl Neill, Bradley Lalonde, and newcomer Gabriel Bilodeau.
“We have a lot of offensive defensemen, so we need to feed our offence from the D-squad,” said Element.
The team knows what they are getting from Carl Neill in terms of scoring; in his two seasons as a Stinger he’s averaged 32 points. There are two players of interest, however, when it comes to getting offence from the back end.
Bradley Lalonde had an excellent rookie season, scoring five goals and 16 assists. He showed off his cannon of a shot, which will play a big role should the Stingers want to repeat having the fourth-best power play in the OUA.
Gabriel Bilodeau is a name that is very intriguing as he’s shown scoring prowess at the junior level; now he must translate that to the more mature U Sports game.
“[The new guys] need to figure out what type of player they are,” said Neill. “It’s a big step from junior – adjusting to the speed and pace. The quicker they do that is how fast we’ll find success this season.”
The Stingers men’s hockey team will see their first preseason game action on Sept. 18 on the road against the Université de Québec à Trois Rivières Patriotes.
Feature Photo by Hannah Ewen