The Concordia Stingers took over sole possession of third place in the OUA Far East Division this weekend by sweeping their weekend series against the Ryerson Rams and the University of Toronto Varsity Blues at Ed Meagher Arena.
The Stingers rolled over Ryerson 8-1 on Friday night, and defeated Toronto 5-4 the following day. Coupled with the McGill Redmen’s 5-2 loss to Queen’s, Concordia now leads in the race for the final playoff spot in the OUA Far East Division.
“Dynamite” was how a giddy Kevin Figsby described his team. “I’m your optimistic realist. You gotta know what you got in your lineup and you gotta know what you’re up against, and unless you have all of your elements working for you, it’s a tough division,” Figsby said. “We’ve been battling every night without our strongest players. We had success tonight because we had the guys in the lineup that we needed.”
Goaltender Phil Ozga and forward Derek Legault played their first home games since sustaining injuries earlier in the year. The line of Legault, and wingers Luc Messier and Yannick Noiseaux combined for six points over the weekend, leading the Stingers to their first back-to-back victories since the weekend of November 14.
Team Captain David Comeau is expected to return next week when the team hits the road to play Queen’s on Valentine’s Day and Royal Military College the next day.
Along with Legault, Messier and Noiseaux, Concordia’s version of the “Flying Frenchmen,” left winger Frederic Faucher scored a hat trick against U of T to add to a five-point weekend.
Friday night’s game against a rebuilding Ryerson started the turnaround for the Stingers. Yannick Noiseaux struck first within the first few seconds of the first period, converting a nifty passing play from Legault and Davis. Concordia would run the score up to 7-0 until Ryerson’s Ross Marshall finally got one past Ozga, who stopped 20 of 21 shots for his fifth win of the season.
“Phil is one of the captains on this team,” Figsby stated. “You count on him when the chips are down to make spectacular saves. And that rallies the team. His presence in the dressing room was something that was really welcome when he came back. It’s the Oz Factor.”
Concordia vs. Toronto
In what might have been there most heart-grasping game of the season the Concordia men’s hockey team managed to hold on to a 5-4 victory over the Toronto Varsity Blues this past Saturday as their playoff hopes got a whole lot brighter.
After snapping a six-game winless streak the day before, the Stingers had a lot to be confident about heading into this one.
The better part of the first period saw both teams get some quality scoring chances. However, it wouldn’t be until five minutes left in frame that Concordia started to assert their dominance.
Rookie sensation Frederic Faucher, who would have a monster game, opened the scoring with his first of three goals. Not long after Philippe Paris would extend the lead after taking a sweet pass from Jonathan Gautier at the side of the net. The marker gave Concordia a 2-0 lead at the intermission.
The Maroon and Gold weren’t about to let up as another goal came on a blast from the point by defenceman Patrice Theriault.
Toronto tried several things to get back in the game. Unfortunately their efforts to dump and chase were futile and a brief attempt at stepping up the physical tone never came close to doing so.
The Blues would, however, find a way to put a dent in the Stingers’ armor as Ian Malcolm would get the lone goal of the period.
The final period, one of Concordia’s most important up to this point, bordered somewhere between exhilarating and farcical.
With the score 3-2 Concordia forward Michael Halitzki made what was unquestionably the play of the game. Just when it looked like Toronto would get a chance to tie, Halitzki appeared out of nowhere on the back check to steal the puck. He then promptly rushed it back up ice where he dropped the puck for Faucher who wired by his second of the game.
It would only be moments later when Faucher notched the hat-trick goal as he batted away at a loose puck while a comatose Toronto defence just stood around the net. “I wasn’t alone out there,” Faucher said of his accomplishment. “We’ve worked hard just to make sure the offence is ready.”
The match now seemed secure for Concordia as they held a 5-2 lead. However, the feeling wouldn’t last long.
Malcolm would bury his second while enjoying a questionable two-man advantage after Stinger defenceman Andrew Davis was sent to the box for talking too much.
Then the hearts of the Concordia faithful collectively skipped a beat when Toronto’s Tristain Senior beat his defenceman on a rush up the ice. Senior then crashed into Ozga as the puck found its way into the net to make it a 5-4 game with 1:42 remaining.
Mercifully, Senior’s would be the last breath in the collective body of the Varsity Blues.
“We had pride night last night,” Figsby admitted sheepishly, in explaining the club’s turnaround. “Where we talk about why we play the game, why we enjoy playing the game and why we came here to play the game, and we each dedicated the rest of the season to someone outside the team. When you do things like that, you have a team that comes together as a family and brings the emotion to the game.”
“Over the last couple of weeks we haven’t been able to put a 60-minute game together,” Andrew Davis said of the team’s turnaround. “The role players are stepping up and the guys are realizing there’s nothing we can’t do if we work hard.”