Plenty of coaches and teams love to preach character and attitude, to the point where it becomes a cliché.
Then games like game two between Concordia and McGill happen and the definition becomes clearer.
In one of the most intense, exciting Stingers games in recent memory, Concordia mounted a comeback to force a decisive game three in this opening round of the playoffs.
Looking like underdogs early in the game and facing elimination with a loss, the team never slowed down or looked to have quit throughout the game, regardless of their cross-town rivals’ advantages at different points in the game.
“No one doubted us in the room. There was good vibes in the room and good vibes on the bench too,” said Stingers defenceman Carl Neill.
Neill and his team trailed 2-0, 3-1, and 4-2 throughout the game and climbed right back into things each time. Neill said they embraced their “us against the world” mentality and just pushed through a number of roadblocks in the game.
The Stingers battled a slow start and some self-inflicted damage caused by penalties leading to McGill goals in the first period. They dug themselves a hole that got deepened by factors that would be hard to lay at their door.
For example, captain Philippe Sanche was hauled down at the opposing net but somehow earned a penalty himself for that. Then there was the penalty shot.
McGill was awarded a penalty shot late in the second period, leading 3-2. After the shot, a no-goal call was made, only for the referee to change his mind seconds later and call it a McGill goal—something coaches and players had never seen before. There are no goal reviews in U Sports so reversing calls is not something that usually happens.
The puck looked to have stopped on the line or against the post but once the no-goal call was overturned, McGill’s Michael Cramarossa skated over to Concordia’s bench for an extravagant celebration right in the Stingers’ faces, earning himself a ten minute misconduct penalty.
Several stingers players called this the true turning point of the game. Concordia was already outshooting McGill and controlling much of the play in the second. But suddenly, down 2 goals and headed into the third, they had some extra motivation right in their face.
“I don’t want to say it’s childish, but at a certain point, you’re in the playoffs,” said Neill. “I believe in the hockey gods and karma, so I wouldn’t be doing anything like that. If that’s your thing go for it. But I’ve never seen that turn things in your favour.”
The Stingers of the third period were something else. The team began to use its speed to push McGill, breaking through the neutral zone and creating strong rushes on the fly. McGill was suddenly getting beat back more and more and by the end of the game, the Stingers nearly doubled the visitors shot count with 50.
“We’ve been working for two weeks on our neutral zone regroups and I think we applied that really well tonight,” said the Stingers’ hero of the game, Anthony Beauchamp who made an impressive play to set up the Stingers third goal before tying the game at four with a goal of his own midway through the third.
The Stingers never-say-die attitude carried them through the third and much of the second. Smiles could be seen across their faces and there was no doubt that the teams matched each other physically in a heavy hitting matchup like this. When Stingers winger Chase Harwell spent some time berating and challenging McGill’s entire bench, it didn’t seem out of place thanks to the Stingers maintaining what Neill calls their swagger.
“I’m proud of the guys,” said Sanche. “If you want to be successful, especially in the playoffs, you have to be in their face. You can’t go down, it’s do or die. That happened tonight.”
As the Stingers dominated the third and forced overtime, everyone appreciated the team effort, but Beauchamp was the clear focus of the win.
One of the Stingers’ fastest players, he has consistently been referred to by teammates as one of their hardest workers as well. When he was on the ice, McGill often found themselves scrambling to keep up with his speedy breakouts and forceful rushes.
“He started on the bottom line and climbed his way up [the lineup tonight], so I’m really proud of him,” said Stingers head coach Marc-André Élement.
So who better to finish this underdog comeback? On a rush into McGill’s zone in overtime, a McGill player ended up on his knees as defenceman Gabriel Bilodeau skated in with Beauchamp suddenly unguarded.
As the pass slipped over to him, Beauchamp closed his eyes and ripped a shot with everything he had. His teammates knew it was the game winner before it had the time to even bounce back out of the net. The Ed Meagher arena exploded in cheers as coaches jumped up and down and the bench emptied of players on their way to swarm their teammate.
“That’s why we play hockey. Everyone in the room got goosebumps after that,” said Beauchamp with a smile.
Photos by Cecilia Piga