Stingers win season opener against McGill

A chippy performance by Concordia led the team to a 3-2 win

The Concordia Stingers men’s hockey team started their season off with a 3-2 win against their crosstown rivals, the McGill Redmen, at McConnell Arena on Oct. 13.

“We played a good game, but we made a lot of mistakes,” said Stingers head coach Marc-André Élement. “There were a couple of parts of the game I didn’t like, but it’s two points so we’re happy about that.”

The game started off with both goaltenders standing tall in their respective nets. Stingers goaltender Marc-Antoine Turcotte made some big saves early and was a difference maker for the Stingers. He made key saves to keep his team in the game.

Turcotte’s brilliant play was accentuated in the third period while the Stingers were up 3-2, trying to cling to their lead. Concordia took some late penalties, giving the Redmen a five-on-three powerplay with less than five minutes left in the game. However, Turcotte turned aside a barrage of shots, allowing his team to keep the lead and ultimately win the game.

“This is what you need from a goalie,” Élement said. “He played an awesome game.”

Alexandre Gosselin skates past a sprawling McGill defender on Oct. 13. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

“The guys played well in front of me,” Turcotte added. “They let me see the puck all night. I’m pretty proud of the guys today.”

In the first period, the Stingers were down 1-0 off a goal by Redmen defencemen Dominic Talbot-Tassi. Nine minutes after the opening goal, Stingers forward Scott Oke popped in a goal off a wrist shot to tie the game before the end of the first period.

The second period had both teams going back and forth with the Redmen taking an early lead. However, rookie forward Alexis Pépin scored the tying goal in his first game as a Stinger.

“Getting that first goal in the first game is always good for confidence,” Pépin said. “I had trouble getting points in the pre-season, and I got two tonight so it was pretty good.”

A few minutes after Pépin scored, Stingers forward Charles-Eric Légaré buried a cross-crease pass to give the Stingers a 3-2 lead. First-year forward Massimo Carozza and Pépin picked up the assists. The team never looked back and left McConnell Arena with the victory.

For Pépin and his teammates, beating a rival like McGill was important. “It’s a big two points for us to start the season with,” he said

The Stingers will play the Redmen three more times this season, but are now off to Ottawa to play the Ottawa Gee-Gees on Saturday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m.

Main photo by Alex Hutchins.


Stingers left to reflect on what could have been

Captain Eric Bégin has played his last game in a Stingers uniform. Photo by Navneet Pall

An exciting season came to its heartbreaking conclusion on Saturday afternoon for the Stingers men’s hockey team, who will be watching the CIS post-season.

Facing the Carleton Ravens, and needing a single point coupled with a Queen’s loss, the Stingers were blanked 7-0 by a Ravens team that had already locked up a playoff spot in the OUA East.

Though Queen’s lost on Saturday against Nipissing, they still held the tie-breaker over Concordia, which was goal differential in the two teams’ head-to-head match-ups. Concordia defeated Queen’s 6-1 earlier in the year, but a 9-2 loss was what inevitably gave Queen’s the final playoff berth.

Missing out in such a close fashion makes it easy to nitpick every goal or loss, but a few games stand out more than others for Stingers Coach Kevin Figsby.

“There’s probably three games this season I’d like to have back,” said Figsby, identifying a particularly frustrating December loss to Ottawa where the Stingers had their seemingly tying goal disallowed. “There were a few games this year where I thought the players didn’t compete as hard as they needed to and I told them going into those games that those are the types of games that bite you in the ass. And we got bit in the ass, and that’s the sign of a young team.”

Unlike the veteran teams it faced down the stretch, Concordia was stocked with first- and second-year players, many of whom felt the weight of the playoff

“When you come into this league as a 20-year-old, you’re facing guys [who have been in the league for five years], that have been where you are, so there is a learning curve there,” said Figsby.

He is also trying to not get frustrated by the fact that Concordia would have qualified, quite easily, for the playoffs if they were in the OUA West. He does think, though, that it is time for the OUA to look at making some changes to the present system that was created when the landscape of OUA hockey was much different.

“The part that’s frustrating is to see how balanced the league has become, and see no changes to allow for the balance,” said Figsby. “The structure was created [to allow for weaker teams to compete], but we’re well past that.”

The end of a season for any team, especially at the collegiate level, often means saying goodbye to some familiar faces. For Figsby, missing the playoffs is as much disappointing from a personal level as a competitive level.

“The disappointing part is that we’re not going to be together everyday,” he said. “It’s the most disappointing because you come in and there’s a group of guys that are committed to each other and when the season ends you know some guys aren’t coming back and you’re not going to see them.”

If Concordia can keep the core of its team together, it will be a dangerous squad next year, especially if it can improve defensively and the three rookie goalies develop after playing a full season.

Figsby did mention, though, that a few players are in talks with professional clubs, primarily in Europe, but would not release the players’ names at this stage of negotiations.

It will undoubtedly be a long off-season for Concordia, but if Figsby can land some of the recruits he has his eyes on, and the team keeps its core together, McGill may not be the only team in this city with championship expectations.


Big win and tough loss for Concordia men

Just like the women’s team experienced a week before, the men’s hockey team was unable to stop the Ottawa Gee-Gees as they played their second game in a row on Saturday night.

Peter Karvouniaris makes a sprawling save in a 5-3 loss to the Ottawa Gee-Gees. Photo by Navneet Pall

The night before, however, the men played what may have been their best game of the season, knocking off the CIS’ top ranked McGill 4-2. Concordia has defeated McGill in two of the teams’ three meetings this season.

This loss to Ottawa greatly dampened Concordia’s chances of making it into the CIS top 10, a place the team would love to find itself in as the regular season winds down.

“The guys played as hard as they could today with what they had left, but we just didn’t have enough energy to compete,” said head coach Kevin Figsby of the Ottawa game. “Ottawa was coming in with a must-win situation. If they lose, they are out of the playoffs. It was a tough game for us today, but you can’t do anything about it, that’s how the schedule dictates itself.”

With two games to go in the regular season, the Stingers will be without the help of goaltender Peter Karvouniaris, who is out indefinitely with a concussion he suffered in the second period as Ottawa forward Stephen Blunden ran him into the net.

Figsby believes the play was a critical turning point of the game. “We were still in a 1-1 hockey game when they ran our goaltender,” said Figsby. “We didn’t know when he got hit that it was a concussion, so he stayed in and they took two shots that went in. That turned the game around.”

The first period had Ottawa written all over it as the Stingers had trouble getting out of their own zone. The Gee-Gees had one opportunity after another as the defence was scrambling, but everything was stopped by Karvouniaris keeping the game 0-0.

Three minutes into the second period, Concordia forward François Lanctôt-Marcotte opened the scoring, making it 1-0 for the Stingers. “It’s a lucky goal I guess,” he said of the goal scored on the rebound of Charles-Antoine Messier.

After Concordia’s goal, it was all Gee-Gees once again. The Stingers had a chance to take a 2-0 lead as Ottawa forward Stephen Blunden was called for goalie interference. But the Stingers were sloppy on the power play, and gave up on a two-on-one which resulted in the puck finding its way past Karvouniaris and to the back of net.

A minute later, Ottawa added another marker as Stephen Blunden scored with a wrist shot, making it 2-1.

Ottawa made the game 3-1 before the intermission as Luc Olivier Blain was able to beat a woozy Karvouniaris.

The third period started with Nicholas Champion taking the place of Karvouniaris in the net after he suffered his concussion. To welcome Champion to the game, Ottawa scored just 40 seconds into the period.

The teams exchanged goals for the rest of the period en route to Ottawa’s 5-3 victory.

Despite the win against McGill, captain Eric Bégin wasn’t letting his team off the hook for Saturday’s game. “I don’t buy into that fatigue factor, that’s not an excuse,” he said. “We play 28 games in a season, not 82 like the pros. It’s not an excuse.”

Concordia is up against McGill this Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Ed Meagher Arena.


Stingers overcome challenges on and off the ice in playoff race

With four games to go in the season, it must be frustrating for the Concordia Stingers and other OUA East hockey teams to look across the conference to the West Division where the Laurier Golden Hawks, sporting a 7-16-1 record, have practically clinched the final spot in the divisional playoffs.

By comparison, Ryerson, with a record of 11-10-3, would miss the playoffs if they started today. In the East, only four points currently separate the fourth seed (Toronto) from ninth-place Ryerson. Concordia is sitting in seventh, tied with Queen’s with 26 points, only one point up on Ryerson.

But such is life in the CIS. Due to geographical circumstances, unbalanced conferences and schedules are something that all teams have to deal with.

Concordia’s head coach, Kevin Figsby, is not frustrated with the fact that, this season, the East is better than the West, pointing out it is “cyclical” and that in past years the West has been better than the East.

The biggest change Figsby would like to see, though, is the balancing of the conference schedule. As it stands, Concordia plays four games a year against McGill and UQTR (perennially strong teams), while teams like Queen’s and Toronto play four games a year against RMC (a perennially weaker team). All teams in each conference also have to play four “crossover” games, often resulting in long bus rides. This year Concordia had to play Windsor, a 12-hour drive away.

“We’ve got the same teams competing for the same [playoff spots] with an unbalanced schedule,” explained Figsby. He also pointed out that the West Division has nine teams vying for eight spots, compared to the East where 10 teams are jockeying for the same number of positions.

Changes have been proposed during meetings, but ultimately the majority has ruled to leave the present system in place.

“The coaches’ association has looked at [changing the system],” said Figsby. “We’ve debated over it and we’ve voted over it. There’s always a diverse conversation that goes on around the table, and obviously for competitive reasons some people don’t want to go to a full conference schedule. You can also look at the [West Division] and they’re pretty content having eight out of nine teams make it, so why would they vote to do anything different?”

For Figsby, perhaps the most frustrating thing is not having more universities in Quebec with men’s hockey programs, thus making it possible for a Quebec conference to exist, and sparing schools like Concordia, McGill and UQTR trips to Ontario. “I still can’t figure out how we can have as much passion about hockey in Quebec, and have one francophone school [in Quebec] with men’s hockey,” he said referring to UQTR.


Second period gale gets Stinger win over Queen’s

Concordia improved its record to 5-1 at home over the weekend with a 6-1 win against the Queen’s Golden Gaels on Saturday afternoon. Concordia has yet to win away from home, though, posting a 0-4 record outside the friendly confines of Ed Meagher Arena.

Samuel Morneau (7) scored in the Stingers 6-1 win over Queen's. Photo by Navneet Pall

Saturday’s game was a quick turnaround for the Stingers who had played Friday night at home against Ryerson, picking up a 3-1 win.

Concordia looked a bit sluggish in the first period, getting outshot by Queen’s 11-7, yet the Stingers still managed to get into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead, thanks to a goal by George Lovatsis.

The Stingers awoke in the second period, though, and buried Queen’s.

“It’s hard to play back-to-back [night and day games],” said Stingers coach Kevin Figsby. “We came out a little slow in the first period, but dominated the last 40 to 45 minutes.”

Just 46 seconds into the period, captain Eric Begin stretched the lead to two. With Queen’s goalie Steele De Fazio scrambling around searching for the puck, Alexandre Monahan circled behind the Gaels’ net and passed out to Begin who buried a low slap-shot into the open net.

The crushing dagger came later in the period when Queen’s was trailing 3-0, but were operating on the powerplay.

Stingers defenceman Etienne St. Germain gained control of the puck in his own end and sent a beautiful saucer pass over the head of a Queen’s defenceman, springing Charles-Antoine Messier on a partial breakaway.

Messier, fending off a back-checker, was able to deke De Fazio onto his stomach and bury a shot into the top of the net. Messier finished the game with two goals and an assist. He now has nine points in 10 games this season.

Concordia would add another goal in the second period, en route to the 6-1 thrashing.

“The key is to work hard,” said Messier. “We were trying to focus defensively, but still gave up a lot of shots. Fortunately our goalie played well and we won.”

Peter Karvouniaris got a rare start in net, in place of Nicholas Champion who was out with the flu. Karvouniaris faced 40 shots and made some spectacular saves in the win. “It feels good a couple days before to know you’re going to play,” said Karvouniaris. “It was good for me to get mentally prepared, and any opportunity you get you try to do the best you can.”

Concordia allowed 40 shots in a game for the fifth time this season (and have twice allowed 39), and has given up the most shots in the country.

Coach Figsby, though, says the numbers can be misleading and it isn’t something he’s concerned with. “Sometimes when you’re playing on the road the home team [score keepers] will pad their [shot count],” he said. “I think a couple times our shot total has been reversed with the other teams. Once that gets on a website there’s nothing you can do about it. We’ve won four of our last five games, so if that means giving up a few more shots I’ll take it.”

The Stingers’ next game is Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. on the road against Nippissing.


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