Two Stingers proudly represented Concordia at Hockey Canada development camp

Claudia Dubois lines up for a face-off in regular-season action during the 2016-17 season. Archive photo by Alex Hutchins

Claudia Dubois and Caroll-Ann Gagné aim to reach new heights with women’s hockey team

Two Stingers on the women’s hockey team recently got to hone their talents with Canada’s national women’s development team. Defenceman Caroll-Ann Gagné and forward Claudia Dubois represented Concordia at Hockey Canada’s national team summer showcase in Calgary, Alta. from Aug. 5 to 13.

Nearly 70 players from U Sports, the NCAA and the under-18 level took part in the development camp. Dubois and Gagné participated in on-ice training sessions, intrasquad games and various off-ice classroom sessions.

“I think we learned a lot of things off the ice because we had meetings about nutrition, and we had some meetings with sports psychologists,” Gagné said.

The camp started off with physical tests, including the bench press and the beep test. Dubois said they then learned about properly warming up before games and cooling down after games.

After the first few days of demanding fitness training, the development camp moved to the ice. Although the players came from different schools and won’t be playing together this season, they practiced as a team and focused on developing teamwork.

“It wasn’t a lot about the skills and the [individual] player,” Dubois said.

Caroll-Ann Gagné, centre, makes a pass between two opponents in a game versus the McGill Martlets during the 2016-17 season. Archive photo by Alex Hutchins

Last season, the Concordia Stingers women’s hockey team finished second in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ), which allowed them to play at the National Championships in Napanee, Ont. Having played at Nationals allowed Dubois and Gagné to attend the development camp with some of the players they battled against at the tournament.

“It was nice to meet some girls from across Canada from different universities,” Dubois said.

When Gagné met players from the various schools, she said she made sure they knew where she was from. “I was proud to say I was from Concordia,” she said.

During the development camp, the two Stingers tried to meet as many players as possible and even befriended some of them. When asked if their friendships would last should Dubois and Gagné compete against their new friends this season, Dubois gave a swift response.

“We are friends,” she said. “But not on the ice.”

One friendship that will remain strong during the 2017-18 season is that of Dubois and Gagné. Dubois, the younger of the two, said having Gagné with her relieved a lot of stress on the way to the camp.

“It was nice to have Caroll-Ann with me and just be with her on the plane,” Dubois said. “We were both in the same situation.”

When asked about sharing the experience with her teammate, Gagné said, “She’s a third-year and I’m a fifth-year so I got to know her a bit better, but I already knew her well enough. But it was great to be part of this with her.”

For the Concordia women’s hockey program, having two Stingers invited to the development camp was a reward for the team’s continuous improvement over the past few seasons.

“For me, it rewarded all the hard work from my years at Concordia,” Gagné said.

In Gagné’s first season in 2013-14, the Stingers finished 5-15-0. Despite a bump in the road in 2015-16, they continued improving and achieved a 10-9-1 record last season. They lost to the McGill Martlets in the RSEQ Final, and went to Nationals only to lose to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in the bronze-medal game.

“Since my first year, we went through a lot, and I think we worked hard to get to Nationals,” Gagné said. “This invitation was a gift for us to go there and to prove what we learned last year, and to prove that Concordia is a good team.”

Gagné finished last season as the Stingers top-scoring defenceman with one goal and 12 assists. She said the knowledge they’re bringing back from the development camp will help her and Dubois make the Stingers better.

“I think that this was a great experience, and everything we learned will help us learn to play together as a team and work towards Nationals,” Gagné said.

Dubois finished second in team scoring behind forward Audrey Belzile with 11 goals and six assists last season. She has big goals for the Stingers ahead of the 2017-18 season.

“We want to make Nationals again but also to get a medal,” she said. “I know we could win the championship of our league. We’re going to have to work hard for sure, but we can do it.”

Gagné, who will be playing her last season at Concordia this year before pursuing a career in human resources, has a bit of a different goal.

“[I want to] just to play to have fun,” she said with a laugh.

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