Come playoff time, it’s a totally different season. This statement does hold a lot of truth. In the case of the Concordia Stingers’ women’s hockey team, the 2003-04 did abide by this statement. A season that began on great note and only got better ended abruptly on Feb. 29 in a 2-1 triple over-time loss to the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the QSSF Championship Game. This came as a big shock to both the team and its fans, for this was a team that was ranked number two in the CIS for most of the season.
“We had goals to win the league title and number two, win the playoffs.” Head Coach Les Lawton said. “I thought we had a great regular season, we just didn’t perform well enough and didn’t get the results we wanted in the playoffs.”
Indeed, the Lady Bees’ 2003-04 season was the best season in the past five years, posting a 11-3-1 record. The Stingers lost top-scorer Marie-Claude Allard after she graduated last year, but managed to recover beautifully. The team also lost top goaltender Jessica Anderson, but were lucky enough to resort to the services of Swedish import Cecilia Anderson. Thanks to a mature defence and to great goaltending on Anderson’s part, the Stingers posted a 7-0-1 record before the Christmas break, earning themselves the top spot in the QSSF and the number-two place in the CIS. From October to January the team also played several non-conference games and tournaments, including Concordia’s prestigious Theresa Humes Tournament.
Stinger captain Janna Gillis believes the team benefited from these experiences.
The Stingers lost 4-1 to the Alberta Pandas in the gold medal game, and could not wait to face them again in the National tournament. The Stingers spent the weeks that separated the tournament and the Nationals improving on their already-established success. “We did a really good job on our goals-against, and our goaltending was strong, and we did a great job on special teams,” Lawton said. “I’m a little disappointed on what we did offensively, but our defence really matured throughout the season.”
The greatest surprise for the Stingers was the addition of Cecilia Anderson. She dominated the team with honours. She was named Rookie of the Year for both the QSSF and the CIS.
She was the top goaltender in Quebec and made the top five in the country with her 0.93 goals against average, a save percentage of 96.5 per cent and recorded five shutouts in 15 games. Another new addition was the familiar face of Karine Bombardier, who played for the Ottawa Gee-Gees. She came onto the roster in 2004 and became the team’s sixth top scorer. Another top Stinger was forward Dominique Rancour. She defied big opponents to rank as her team’s top scorer.
At times, the Stingers experienced a rocky second half of the season. Following the Theresa Humes Tournament, Concordia lost their second game of the season to McGill. Less than three weeks later, they had two back-to-back 1-1 ties with Ottawa.
However, most of the second half of the year was punctuated with wins until the infamous Championship game against Ottawa.
“I was so shocked how the season ended, I give Ottawa nothing but respect,” Gillis said. “However we were confident in the final series that we could come out as Quebec champs. The team was upset, no question. Time will heal.” Time is something that Concordia can profit from at this point. Despite having ended their season three weeks ago, many players still meet at the Ed Meagher Arena on an almost-daily basis to practice various hockey skills. Four players will be graduating, including Gillis, centre Catherine de Abreu, right wing Kendra MacDonald and centre Anouk Grignon L’Anglais.
Losing three veterans on offence would hurt other teams, but with a solid roster coming back and a yet-unfinished recruitment, the Stingers have nowhere to go but up.
“We have 18 to 20 girls from a roster of 25 coming back, and we haven’t finalized anything in our recruitment yet, but so far, things look good for next year,” Lawton said.