If you watched the Stingers play this season, you’ve seen a team that’s managed to consistently beat two of the top teams in the country. Playing in the RSEQ is gruelling. Concordia, McGill and the Universite de Montreal are all top-5 programs in Canada.
And this game against the UDEM Carabins was yet another heavyweight bout. Unfortunately for the top-ranked Stingers, they come out of this one with some bruises as they drop a 4-3 result to the number three ranked Carabins 24 hours after beating the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees 6-2.
“We start off tough, we’re trying to come out of a hole and we take two penalties,” said head coach Julie Chu post-game. “We have to have an intensity and a grit and I think we just didn’t quite have it today. Part of it is the back-to-back and Montreal got the day off, yeah sure. But we’re going to see that at nationals, so there’s no excuse for this.”
Over the past 16 meetings between these two teams since 2017-18, 13 have been decided by one goal. This is only the second time out of those 16 games that UDEM has beaten Concordia in regulation.
The game started as a whirlwind as both teams traded blows. The Stingers were the first ones on the board courtesy of captain Claudia Dubois finding the puck in front of the net and powering a shot past Carabins goalie Aube Racine. Racine finished the game with 25 saves on 27 shots. Stingers goalie Alice Philbert is certainly not to blame in this loss, the Carabins made her life extremely difficult with tight screens, cross-ice passing and heavy shots. Philbert finished the game with 25 saves on 29 shots.
“We went through spurts where we were good,” said Chu. “But the penalties really killed us. Our power play wasn’t strong as well.”
Montreal’s Alexandra Labelle evened it up thanks to a cross-ice tap-in. Stingers’ Rosalie Begin-Cyr responded a minute later, capitalizing from the chaos caused in the slot by Dubois who took a hard hit to make the play. Begin-Cyr wired a wrister to retake the lead for the Stingers. The Carabins would tie it at two before the end of the period.
But the biggest problem for the Stingers was the special teams. In the team’s first 10 games of the season, the Stingers had only taken a league-best 25 penalties. In their first two games of 2020, they’ve taken 11, including six in this game.
“We have to play the full 60 minutes,” said Dubois post-game. “We have to avoid the penalties, that’s what really killed us. We had the momentum, then bang, we’re down by two.”
The power play wasn’t much better, and we’re at the point of the season where the benefit of the doubt for the Stingers is over. They hold a league-worst power play that’s converted just 8.8% of their powerplay chances, and went 0/4 this game.
“We have to improve the power play,” said Dubois. “It’s tough. We’re supposed to score. We’re supposed to capitalize on those chances and we’re not able to. There’s going to be changes and we’re going to try things for sure.”
The Carabins played what could have easily been their best game of the season thanks to their physical style of play and ability to take advantage of the Stingers mistakes. It often felt like Montreal had an odd-player rush while also having like six players back defending. It made no sense, but at the end of the day, the Stingers became frustrated and were baited into some unnecessary penalties.
The Stingers third goal was a weird one. Dubois was breaking into the Carabins zone and was beating the defender wide. The defender had no choice but to haul her down. The referee’s arm shot up, and everyone stopped. But no whistle. Racine moved out of the way to avoid Dubois, but by the powers of the hockey gods, the puck actually slid into the net with Dubois, cutting the Stingers deficit to one.
“We’ll take those goals, but those are definitely not normal goals,” said Dubois.
The Stingers were unable to convert a tying goal, but sometimes it’s just nice to watch some heavyweights go at it.
- I watched the replay on Dubois’ second goal about 10 times and I still have no idea how or why every single player on the ice stopped playing before the whistle. Even the crowd thought it was dead. The hockey gods giveth (a fun goal), and the hockey gods taketh away (a loss).