The new year boasts riveting home openers for the Stingers

Rowena Blais puts up a shot against McGill’s Emma-Jane Scotten. Photo courtesy of Concordia Athletics.

Stingers women’s hockey stays undefeated, while the men’s and women’s basketball teams show grit against rivals at home in the new year.

The Concordia Stingers’ women’s hockey team picked up where they left off in 2023, skating to a decisive 7-0 victory over the Carleton Ravens. Both women’s and men’s basketball teams faced McGill on Thursday night, and the gym was packed for an electric night. Both Stingers squads showed tremendous grit, as matchups against McGill always spark extra emotion.

Coming into the winter break with a perfect 13-0-0 record, the Stingers have been at the top of the USports women’s hockey rankings since Nov. 7. While the team’s record speaks for itself, the fashion in which the Stingers are winning is simply remarkable.

It is not everyday that a team has six different players scoring at a point-per-game pace. But with Concordia’s Émilie Lussier, Jessymaude Drapeau, Émilie Lavoie, Chloé Gendreau, Emmy Fecteau, and Léonie Philbert, we’re witnessing this rarity. Moreover, goaltenders Arianne Leblanc and Jordyn Verbeek are ranked in the top five for goals-against average in the USports national rankings. The Stingers offensive dominance was put on display yet again when they faced off against Carleton on Jan. 6.

Right off the opening faceoff, the Stingers jumped in front of their opponents. Forwards Chloé Gendreau and Jessymaude Drapeau both scored power-play goals in the first three minutes of the game, giving the Stingers a 2-0 cushion early.

Shutdown defence and a consistent forecheck from the Stingers continued through the second period. Forwards Émilie Lavoie, Rosalie Parent, and Rosalie Bégin-Cyr all added goals of their own in the middle frame, extending the Stingers lead to 5-0.

In the final 20 minutes, Gendreau and forward Caroline Moquin-Joubert added one more goal each, while goaltender Jordyn Verbeek secured a shutout and her eighth win of the season. The Stingers’ 7-0 victory moved them to a 14-0-0 record, which was followed by a 5-0 win against the Montréal Carabins, as well as a 5-1 win against the McGill Martlets. They will look to stick to their winning ways when they faceoff at the Ottawa Gee-Gees on Jan. 19.

Concordia Stingers women’s and men’s basketball teams faced McGill on Thursday, and the gym was packed for an electric night. Both teams showed tremendous grit, as matchups against McGill always spark extra emotion.

The women’s basketball team started off hot in the first quarter. As the Martlets showed consistent offensive pressure, the Stingers displayed tough defence. Stingers forward Gretta-Olivia Ineza executed a steal and three defensive rebounds throughout her 34 minutes of gametime. However, forcing McGill to commit a shot clock violation and a few more close-calls wasn’t enough—the Stinger’s largest lead of the game was only by six points towards the end of the first quarter. At the same time, the Stingers put up their best scoring quarter of the game, putting up 20 points.

The two top scorers of the game played on the away side, as centre Kristy Awikeh and point guard Daniella Mbengo put up 21 and 17 points, respectively. Both showed incredible stamina to find the play, regardless of how much pressure was applied. Mbengo, who played for 30 minutes, recorded six assists, more than anyone else on the court, making it look easy to find the right decisions in tough situations. She also made all five of her free throws. 

It was too little too late for the Stingers, as the Martlets were up by 15 points towards the end of the third quarter, and started the last quarter ahead by 11. It seemed as though star point guard Areej Burgonio’s nasty fadeaway-and-one three-pointer reignited the flame for the home team in the last seconds of the third quarter. The crowd erupted into a cacophony as she held up three fingers with both her hands from the ground. Despite exuberant and desperate efforts in the last 12 minutes of the game, it seemed as though Burgonio’s efforts weren’t enough. The Stingers lost 74-66.

“[McGill] played with a lot more heart, a lot more grit,” said Stingers head coach Tenicha Gittens. “The biggest thing for me was on the rebounds. [McGill had] 25 rebounds and we got 16. You’re not going to win a game like that. Pretty much everything else is even on the stat sheet.” Despite the eventual loss, Gittens seemed satisfied with the reduction of caused turnovers compared to before the break.

“We’re trying to get to the championship game and win it,” the head coach concluded. “So you can’t just sit in your loss. This can break us, or it can make us better. And we’re going to make it make us better.”

The Stingers then lost to the Martlets 68-50 on Saturday. Concordia sits in third place out of five in the RSEQ, with a 4-4 record.

The men’s game was a real nail-biter as the teams traded even blows throughout the 48-minute period. In fact, the two teams alternated in out-scoring each other for each quarter, and they both layed down a hefty 29 points in the last, which sounds like an NBA stat.

The Stingers showed incredible team depth, as five of the seven bench players dropped an accumulative 28 points. This included new recruit Gabriel Bourdages, who recorded five rebounds, a steal, a block, and seven points within nine minutes of his debut. “I thought he showed some really good minutes in the first half,” said head coach Rastko Popović after the game. “He’s gonna get better as we get to practise.”

On the other hand, while the McGill Redbirds didn’t display much  depth, they had a great sixth man, power forward Joshua Soifer. The 4-man recorded 12 points, two assists, two rebounds and a steal in 15 minutes of playing time.

Amongst the players on the Concordia team, the guards shined the brightest. Alec Phaneuf and Sami Jahan together stole the show combining for 36 points, seven assists, eight rebounds and making all of their 11 free throws. “I thought [Phaneuf] was doing a great job in the third quarter when he built the nine-point lead,” said coach Popović.“Then we had one possession where we didn’t execute and then our point guards really made a lot of huge plays down the stretch.” 

Junior Mercy came off the bench and had a few highlight plays in the first half, including a nasty steal for a coast-to-coast and one layup, as well as a huge block and assist play to Bourdages.

Yet another third-quarter highlight occurred when centre Bradley Louidon pulled a reverse slam dunk on the towering opposing star centre Saransh Padhy, and caused an eruption from the crowd, as well as heated arguments from both benches. Despite many fouls and a missed call on a McGill flop, the Stingers pulled an 89-86 win for their first game of 2024. 

“I think our defence has to be more consistent,” Popović said. “That’s way too many points we gave up today, so you know we’ve got to clean up our defence and a little bit better execution offensively and I think we should be okay. It’s gonna be a hard game on the road, so we’ve got to get ready.”

The Stingers then beat the Redbirds 71-61 on Saturday. Concordia currently sits in second place in the RSEQ with a 6-2 record, just under UQÀM. 

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