It was one of those games where it will take you a day or two to realize how great it was. Once the bitterness of defeat or the giddiness of victory subsides, those in attendance at the Ed Meagher arena on Sunday will reflect on Concordia’s 4-3 win over the previously unbeaten McGill Martlets as one of the best hockey games they will ever see.
It was almost fitting that the most important game of the second half of the season had the largest attendance of the year so far (300). Along with the record turnout came more twists and turns then a roller coaster at La Ronde.
Janie Brassard, who has been the Stingers best offensive player through the first half of the season, was relatively quiet throughout the first two and a half periods. But she tapped in the game-winning goal on the power play, her seventh goal in four games, with less than five minutes remaining.
The Stingers, who came back from 2-1 and 3-2 deficits after the first and second periods, had their best team effort of the year against McGill. The Stingers had yet to beat the Martlets in their previous two meetings.
Concordia opened the scoring with 7:20 remaining in the first period when Angela Di Stasi and Andrea Dolan were sprung on a 2-on-1 behind the McGill defense. Di Stasi passed the puck to Dolan whose first shot was stopped, but the rebound bounced right back to her and she didn’t miss the second one to put the Stingers up. The lead wouldn’t last for long. As Dolan’s goal was being announced, Kristin Leuszler converted a Patrice Mason rebound to tie the game just 30 seconds later. McGill wasn’t finished there as just 40 seconds after they tied the game, Cecilia Anderson stopped a Christina Smith, point shot but Amanda Carmichael took another rebound and put the puck by Anderson.
Concordia’s bench didn’t put their heads down. Instead captain Jodi Gosse among others was telling the team to keep their heads into it.
“One thing I mentioned in the dressing room after the game,” said Stingers head coach, Les Lawton, “is that they never panicked. They scored two quick goals which didn’t seem to bother us, and they scored a goal late in the third period which didn’t affect us going into the third.”
Less than five minutes into the second period, with the referee’s hand up for a delayed penalty, Stingers defenceman Marie-Pier Cantin-Drouin didn’t feel there was a need for a power play. She went coast to coast around three McGill defenders and rifled the puck over the blocker of Martlets goalie, Kalie Townsend. That goal seemed to energize the Stingers, who had most of the offensive pressure in the second period, but McGill caught a break with less than a minute to go in the period. A clearing attempt was blocked and the puck found its way to Venessa Davidson who promptly rifled the puck off of the crossbar and into the net.
As Lawton said after the game, the team did not panic, and dominated the final third of action, outshooting the Martlets 16-4 in the final period. With 6:23 left in the game, Mary Jane O’Shea surprised Townsend with a shot from the corner, and found its way to the back of the net. The talented rookie Stinger, who scored her third goal of the season and first since November 6, had been snakebitten of late, including missing an open net earlier in the game.
“She had a bit of a delayed reaction. I’m not sure if she saw it go in or not,” said Lawton. “It was nice to see her put one in late in the game, and she is someone who will really help this program for the next four to five years.”
Despite allowing three goals, the Stingers had clutch performances from Anderson and defenceman Victoria Johnstone. Anderson, who Lawton said was shaky early, made a great pad save on a 2-on-0 deep in the Concordia end with 31 seconds left in the game. Johnstone, for her part, was a rock defensively for the Stingers. The CIS rookie who played in the NCAA with Maine played her best game as a Stinger. She won key battles on the penalty kill and started the rush offensively with slick first passes.
Lawton also mentioned that since the last game against McGill, a 1-0 loss on November 5, the team is showing a lot more confidence and swagger.
“We’ve really come together on and off the ice and it is really great to see,” said Lawton. The Stingers started to turn their season around at this time a year ago, which led to a Quebec championship.
The team has won five straight games since that loss, and has been climbing up the National Rankings. They are now tied for third in the country with, who else, McGill. The Stingers are now only three points behind the Martlets for top spot in the QSSF. Concordia is 5-2-1 in conference play while the Martlets are 7-1-0.