Stingers never say die in opener

In their season opener, the Concordia Stingers mustered a 3‑3 tie against defending eastern‑conference champion UQTR Patriotes under the most bizarre circumstances.

Before leaving for Trois‑Rivieres, Stingers head coach Kevin Figsby was told the game would have to be moved from the main rink due to a gas leak, to a minor hockey rink next door. However, a problem with the cooling system in the new venue transformed the playing surface into a glorified over‑sized slush puppy. The Stingers and Pats, however, both agreed to play on.

Upon the puck‑drop, the Stingers looked listless. The Pats drew first blood on their first shot after a turnover, however, Stingers goaltender, Pat Lepage seemed unshaken by the early marker. His concentration did not waver, and the battle of the goalies began. UQTR had returning starter, Danny Dallaire ‑ one of the best in the league ‑ back between the pipes.

When UQTR defender Alex Morel was called for cross‑checking, the Stingers had a chance to tie up the game. But the power‑play proved fruitless, and they then took a penalty of their own, where Stingers sniper Yannick Noiseux had a good short‑handed chance, but was unable to solve the Dallaire puzzle.

Back at the other end of the rink, Lepage came up huge on a breakaway, and then stoned the Pats as they peppered him with shots during a 5‑on‑3, while Stingers Bruno D’Amico and Noiseux were in the box. The second UQTR goal came shortly after the Stingers returned to even strength with a low shot on the short side, and they rang another off the post before the frame came to a close.

The Stingers, who were starting to look as though they had caught SARS, coughing up the puck, gave up a third goal to the Patriotes halfway through the second period. Still not on the board themselves, the Stingers decided to take back the game, and third‑year winger, Phil Lacasse scored unassisted at 13 minutes even.

A minute and a half later, Bruno Champagne, who was playing the wing, put another goal past Dallaire, with assists going to rookie Karl Gagne and fifth year defender, Max Isabel.

At the end of the second, the Stingers were trailing only 3‑2, but were being outshot by a ratio of almost 2‑to‑1.

Stingers forward, Jonathan Gautier, tied the game up with a shot through traffic with captain Joey D’Amico and assistant captain, Fred Faucher drawing the assists.

Pat Lepage bailed out the Stingers a couple times in overtime, and the score remained a tie. The Patriotes have not lost a season opener since 1993.

Coach Figsby was pleased with the team’s play considering the circumstances, which could potentially have been very dangerous. “The guys wanted to battle it out,” he said. He also noted that “they had confidence, character and talent.” Lacasse’s goal was a huge turning point for the team, and coach’s theory is that “if you do the right things, good things will happen.” After the game the week before, which saw the Stingers triumph over the Patriotes 7‑5, he told the team not to get too confident, because Dallaire was not in net. “It was the battle of the goal‑tenders tonight,” he said.

Champagne was “just trying to get the puck on net” when it elluded the netminder. “I like my new position. My role has changed a lot,” he said, of his new‑found home on the right‑wing, after playing last season as a centre.

Lepage was only slightly pleased. “I played alright,” said the humble back‑stopper. “Nobody wants to give up a goal [on the first shot] but it can happen any time, whether on the first shot or the tenth shot.” He said he was not nervous, and that he “liked the 5‑on-3. It makes me feel like a part of the game. And I have played with most of these guys for over a year now. They know what I can do.”

The Stingers followed‑up Friday night’s tie with a 2‑1 loss in Ottawa, against the team that squandered last year’s playoff run. They’re back on the ice Wednesday, Oct. 19 in their home opener against the McGill redmen. The puck drops at 8 p.m. at Ed Meagher Arena.


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