What started out as a strong start to the season, with opening wins versus cross-town rival McGill Redmen and the Carleton Ravens, turned into a season to forget for the Concordia Stingers men’s hockey team.
Although their hockey fate came down to the last game of the season, a 2-1 loss to Toronto, falling three points shy of a playoff spot, the Stingers (8-15-5) suffered more than just a disastrous 10-game losing streak early in the season.
Opening the season with Nick Champion between the pipes, who was expected to attend the Tampa Bay Lightning’s pre-lockout training camp in September, Stingers head coach Kevin Figsby thought he had an All-Canadian goaltender in the making.
After beginning the season with consecutive wins, Figsby received some unexpected news – Champion’s days as a Stinger were over. The netminder received a job opportunity from a mining company in Labrador that he could not refuse.
“After losing Nick Champion, we were almost in a depression for five games to lose a goalie that we thought would be a CIS All-Canadian this year,” said Figsby, who’s been at the helm for 13 seasons.
The team went on to lose their next 10 games, throwing untested goaltenders Loic Boivin and Antonio Mastropietro into the fire.
To make matters worse, the team battled more than just the slump. They were forced to play through injuries, playing without forward Jessyco Bernard (blood disorder; missed nine games) and rookie defenseman Alex MacDonald (concussion; missed six games).
But after a much needed Christmas break, the Stingers made a run for the playoffs, running a 4-5-3 record to end the season, all the while playing short-handed, as backup goaltender Loic Boivin was out with a torn hip abductor.
“I got to look back and say ‘hey we peaked at the right time and we did all the right things but we came up three points shy’,” said Figsby.
The Stingers were in playoff contention until their final game, when a loss to Toronto and a Ryerson win (eighth in the OUA Eastern Conference) ended their postseason hopes.
While the loss of Champion and a lethargic 10-game slump can be highlighted in the disappointing season, it was the Stingers lack of scoring prowess that ultimately put a dent in their playoff aspirations.
The team finished the season second-to-last in goals for, with 73 goals scored, a 41-goal drop-off from the 2011-12 season. Both star forwards, George Lovatsis (19 points in 28 games) and Alex Monahan (15 points in 28 games), had off-years after a stellar 2011-12 season in which they scored 40 and 27 points, respectively.
Now this young Stingers team, featuring nine rookies, will be even younger next year, as captain Kyle Kelly, Lyle Van Wieran, Alex Monahan, Djan Lefebvre and Corey Garland are finishing their last semester at Concordia University.
But the future looks bright for Concordia’s hockey program.
Mastropietro’s emergence in the second half not only earned him a rookie goalie of the year nomination from coach Figsby, but also his status as the undisputed number one goalie to open the 2013-14 season.
“I just started being less nervous and just having fun, while helping out the team,” said the netminder, when asked about his overall game.
Figsby certainly expects “the great Antonio” to backstop his team next season with a strong, young core intact. The team is planning to build a foundation around Olivier Hinse, Jessyco Bernard, Dany Potvin, Youssef Kabbaj and Alex MacDonald.