Alice Philbert: Born a winner

After six years playing hockey at Concordia, the goaltender looks ahead to a future in professional hockey

It was a rainy evening in March 2022 when Alice Philbert walked into the MacLauchlan Arena in P.E.I. with a championship game ahead of her. The goaltender and her teammates played their hearts out, and the Concordia Stingers exited the building that night as national champions.

In her 18 years playing hockey, six of which she’s spent with Concordia, this will be a moment that Philbert will remember for the rest of her life.

“It’s the nationals, it’s not something you live every day, or every year,” she said.

In her career at Concordia, the 26-year-old has won three RSEQ championships, as well as bronze, silver and gold medals at the national championship.

“She’s a winner,” said Olivier Gervais, her goaltender coach of the past two years. “There are a lot of good athletes, but not everyone is a winner. Alice learned to win [and] she showed it.”

Alice Philbert and Olivier Gervais hugging. Photo courtesy of Arianne Bergeron/ @arianneprendesfotos

But the 2022 national championship win means more to her than a trophy and a medal.

With a full year without hockey in 2020-21 because of COVID-19, and more shutdowns in the winter of the 2021-22 season, overcoming these challenges meant an even sweeter victory.

But in addition to COVID hardships, Philbert had lost her grandmother a few weeks before the playoffs last year. Alice and her sister Léonie — a defender for the Stingers — wanted to win it for their grandmother.

“The fact that she told us ‘go beat Montreal,’ and then after that ‘I know you can win the nationals,’ was extra motivation for us to do it for her.”

Philbert also remembers feeling her grandmother’s presence during the tournament.

“My grandmother was there to save us,” she said. “My three shutouts, I know my grandmother was with me. At some point, the puck hit the post and then I put my glove right on time to stop it, I think my grandmother was there to help me with that.”

Having their parents with them in P.E.I. during the championship was also unbelievable, Philbert said.

“It was a big moment for our family, I think it brought us closer together,” she added. “It reunited us with our cousins too, they were all watching us. We’re about thirty in our family, so it reunited the family, and it’s a moment I’ll never forget.”

Playing with her sister was nothing new. Alice grew up playing with her sisters Léonie and Zoé at the midget level, and kept playing with Léonie at Dawson College and then at Concordia.

“For sure I’d rather have her on my team than playing against me,” Philbert joked. “I wouldn’t have liked having her scoring against me. It’s like, do our parents clap or not?”

She added, on a serious note, that she likes playing with her sister and knowing she has her back.

“It’s fun to know your sister is here for you, to support you, no matter if you get scored against or if you make a nice save,” Philbert said. “In all situations, I know Léonie is here for me and it’s fun to have someone to rely on.”

Philbert first started playing hockey as a forward at eight years old. She switched to defence in her second year when her team needed defenders. It wasn’t until another three years, when one of the goaltenders couldn’t make it to a playoff game, that she took it as an opportunity to try it out. She kept playing defence but would practice as a goaltender.

She had to compromise with her father to play goaltender, as long as she would pay for her own equipment.

“We were four kids, and at that age you grow quickly so it’s expensive, and at that age you don’t work,” she laughed. “So all my gifts for my birthday, for Christmas, even from my aunts, uncles, grandparents, it went to my parents to pay for the equipment.”

Philbert in her net pre-game. Maria Bouabdo/ The Concordian

It was ultimately at 13 years old that she really started goaltending, after wanting to do it for a little while.

“Every shot is a different challenge, you never know what can happen,” she said. “It was a challenge for me. We were four kids, four skaters, I was like ‘no, I want to have my own thing, be in my own world.’”

Gervais, who had first met her that year, still remembers what stood out about her at such a young age.

“It was her determination, she wanted to stop the puck and it was her will to get better, that was remarkable,” he said. “And when I started coaching her again [in the summer of 2021], that’s exactly what I saw again, her determination and will to be the best and stop everything. It’s one of her biggest qualities.”

This determination helped her overcome one of the greatest obstacles she faced growing up: being a girl in a boys’ team.

The Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville native had always played in boys’ teams since there weren’t many girls’ teams at the time and the closest was in Sainte-Hyacinthe.

After playing her first two years as a goaltender with a boys’ team at the bantam level, it was the following year that things started getting rocky.

“I get there on the first day of training camp and the guys knew me, we had played together the previous year, and they were like ‘oh it’s fun we’re going to play together this year too,’” Philbert said. “But then the coach comes to get me from the locker room and tells me not to get dressed there. He says ‘you’re not making the team, I don’t want girls on the team.’”

Philbert acknowledged sexist behaviour from that coach, but also pointed out that’s unfortunately how it was back then. It was that year that she started playing with an all-girls team.

Now, looking ahead, the plan for Philbert is to play professional hockey, either in the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) in North America, or in the Swedish Women’s Hockey League.

As well, Philbert will be walking on the Concordia stage this summer after having earned a graduate diploma in business administration. She also has a bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation, which she could put to use eventually, perhaps working with elderly people and helping them stay healthy and active.

Alice Philbert playing at the CEPSUM arena. Maria Bouabdo/ The Concordian

But her top priority for the moment remains hockey.

“I’m not ready to stop playing hockey,” Philbert said. “And I’ll never know [what can come out of it] if I don’t try. I don’t want to regret anything.”

Navigating the world of professional women’s hockey is new for her, and for a lot of people, with the PHF’s $1.5 million USD salary cap and $30,000 USD minimum salary having been introduced recently.

For this reason, Philbert decided to get an agent to help her navigate this new business aspect of hockey and help her find the perfect fit.

As a Montrealer, there was no doubt Philbert was interested in playing for the Force, Montreal’s new PHF team that just finished playing its inaugural season.

“I’m Québécoise, I would love to represent my city,” she stated.

However, things didn’t go how she thought they would.

Gervais is confident that Philbert will find a team in no time though, whether in North America or Europe — and that her accomplishments and winner mindset will help her.

“She has all the capacity, not only to play, but mostly to perform, so I wouldn’t be surprised that she finds a number one spot,” he said. “I think the pros need to see [that she’s a winner]. You want to add someone on your team that can win you championships and get you far, and Alice is the right person for that.”

With everything Philbert has accomplished at the university level, the future doesn’t have limits for her. If there’s one thing she won’t stop doing it’s fighting and winning, no matter what she’s pursuing in life.


Stingers’ 4-1 victory over McGill crowns Concordia RSEQ champions

The Concordia women’s hockey team sweeps the McGill Martlets to continue their undefeated playoff run.

The Concordia Stingers defeated the McGill Martlets 4-1 in the second part of back-to-back games after shutting them out 3-0 on Thursday. Concordia completed their second sweep and remain undefeated in the playoffs this year as they were crowned RSEQ champions on Friday.

The game started at a quick pace, with Concordia wanting to end the series, and McGill desperately trying to hang on.

The first goal came right after an offensive zone faceoff win by McGill. Stingers forward Rosalie Bégin-Cyr stole the puck, shooting it directly on net and giving her team a 1-0 lead with about six minutes left in the period.

The Stingers got their second penalty of the night shortly after, but their penalty kill did the work and goaltender Alice Philbert made all the necessary saves.

As Stingers forward Audrey-Ann Rodrigue was looking to clear the zone on the penalty kill, forward Emmy Fecteau was already in the neutral zone, collecting the pass from Rodrigue with a breakaway chance that developed into a 1-on-1. Her initial shot was saved by McGill goaltender Tricia Deguire, but Fecteau had joined her teammate just in time to score on the rebound, collecting a shorthanded goal and doubling the Stingers’ lead only a minute and a half after their first goal.

Concordia was handed three more penalties in the first half of the second period, which led to a powerplay goal by McGill forward Jade Downie-Landry.

It was McGill’s turn to be undisciplined in the second half of the frame, and Concordia forward Stéphanie Lalancette capitalized on the last second of a 5-on-3 with six seconds remaining in the period.

“Special teams are important in the postseason,” Stingers head coach Julie Chu said. “Obviously 5-on-5 too, but special teams are going to be the difference-makers when you have really good teams that are well-matched. So it was a good battle and I thought McGill had a really great game.”

Being up 3-1 with 20 minutes left to play, the Stingers played a defensive third period, while the Martlets were pushing to tie the game. The Stingers did everything they had to do, even pushing to get a bigger lead.

McGill pulled Deguire for the extra attacker with two and a half minutes remaining. However, Concordia stood tall as forward and captain Audrey Belzile scored an empty-net goal with a minute remaining, her last goal at the Ed Meagher Arena.

“It’s just incredible. After a year of COVID and the cancelled year, we came back a long way and we were ready for this year,” Belzile said. “And for all the graduating students, it was our last chance and I think we showed what this team is capable of.”

“All the girls worked so hard all year and winning this championship is everything […] I’m so proud of all of the girls,” Philbert said.

This was her second consecutive start after getting a shutout in their previous matchup. On Friday, she added to her exceptional season by allowing only one goal on 35 shots.

There was no doubt for Chu that Philbert was going to get both starts.

“She’s our goaltender and she’s proven it not only at practices every single day, and the way she pushes, but in the way that she’s competing and playing in games, so she’s going to get the nod,” Chu said.

It was bigger than just a championship for Philbert, who also got to celebrate and share the moment with her sister Léonie, who plays defence for the Stingers.

“We lost our grandmother two weeks ago, and before she passed away she told us ‘Go win it for me,’ and I know she’s been with us during those moments for the last few weeks,” Alice said. “And I’m really happy for my sister. She went from playing forward to defence and was injured for half of the season, so I’m really proud of her and everything she’s accomplished.”

Chu said it’s been a journey for everyone, from the staff and coaches, to the student-athletes, especially.

“All the pressures that they’ve had to go through, all the ups and the downs and the disappointments, to get to this point and work hard and have this final result is really awesome and we’re really pumped that we got a chance to win at home, which is special because that crowd is amazing,” Chu added.

The arena couldn’t have been any louder as “We Are The Champions” blared through the stadium and the girls celebrated on the ice.

Having hoisted the Dr. Ed Enos championship trophy, the Stingers will now be headed to the national championship at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown, PEI. Teams will compete for the Golden Path Trophy, which is presented annually to the U Sports women’s hockey champions.


Photograph by Kyran Thicke 


Learning season for Stingers women’s hockey

Concordia went 8-1-1 in 2019 after a rocky start to the regular season

It was a learning season for the Concordia Stingers women’s hockey team, which saw many ups and downs. They were eliminated in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) semi-final in February.

The Stingers started the season with 11 rookies, and finished the regular season in second place with a 13-4-3 record. Head coach Julie Chu said that if there’s one thing to take away from this season, it’s growth.

“[Every season], we start at a different point,” Chu said. “This year, we [did so] because we were young and had a lot of new players.”

Forward Lidia Fillion (pictured) finished the season with seven goals. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

After winning five of the first 10 games, Chu asked her players for patience.

“We had a young team in a lot of ways,” Chu said. “Even if they’re talented players who have been successful, it still takes time to develop and play a complete team game for a full 60 minutes. I think that’s what we saw in the first half of the season. We didn’t have the consistency and execution that we needed in order to win games.”

Five Stingers earned individual RSEQ awards, including forwards Audrey Belzile and Rosalie Bégin-Cyr, the Stingers’s best scorer and the RSEQ’s highest-scoring rookie, respectively. Chu said the working environment her players built help them to succeed.

“They want to get better and learn,” Chu said. “They push themselves, and they do it in a competitive and awesome environment where they find a way to support each other. I don’t think it’s surprising that we had individuals from the team who were honoured for successful seasons.”

Veterans Katherine Purchase, Devon Thompson, Melinda Prévost, and Sophie Gagnon won’t be back with the Stingers next season. Chu said these graduating players helped develop Concordia’s hockey program into what it is.

“They are huge part of why we have the foundation we have [today],” Chu said. “When young players arrive in our program, they know what to expect. They know what they’re building off [of], and I think that’s a really special part of the culture and tradition we want to have here at Concordia.”

Despite Purchase’s departure, the Stingers will still be able to count on goaltender Alice Philbert for the upcoming season. Chu said that having Philbert with the team for the seasons ahead is huge.

“Alice has been a great part of our team the last two years,” Chu said. “She always works hard, she wants to get better. She asks questions and because of that, she’s been able to develop and become a really great goaltender.”

The Stingers announced in December that forward Scout Watkins Southward of the Kingston Junior Ice Wolves will join the team for the beginning of next season. Chu thinks Watkins Southward will bring a lot to the team.

“She has the work ethic, the personality, and the character we want to include in our program,” Chu said. “I think that she will arrive and have a really big impact right off the start. We’re really excited for everything that she will be able to bring.”

Main photo by Mackenzie Lad.

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