Defending champions, the Concordia University Stingers are still the favorites for the Canadian Championships this year, especially since they will be playing in Montreal, even if it is on the ice of their great rivals, the Carabins of the Montreal university.
With a well-rounded roster – no less than six players have been selected to RSEQ All-Star Teams this season – impact players like Emmy Fecteau, solid goalie Alice Philbert, the Stingers have no weak point. And it is not with coaches like Julie Chu and Caroline Ouellette that the champions will fall into complacency.
“At the beginning of the year, we agreed that we should not be satisfied with the title acquired in 2022, but build on this success with the group of players we had this season, explained Julie Chu, this week in an interview. . We have progressed throughout the season, facing very strong opposition in the Quebec conference, with the Carabins, but also four other very good teams. »
While they have plenty of stars, the Stingers also have plenty of first- and second-year student-athletes. “Many of our best players were back this season, but others had graduated and we still had a young team, insists the head coach. We had to be patient, trust the “process”, and we saw during the provincial playoffs that we were ready. We are playing really good hockey right now and we are happy to be able to defend our national title.
“We’re in a very strong conference and we’re well prepared for Nationals. Even though we haven’t faced teams from other conferences this season, we were able to study them on videos, identify their main trends, prepare our game plans.
The Stingers will play their first game this Friday night against the Nipissing Lakers, a rematch of last year’s final where Concordia won decisively 4-0. And they hope to find the enthusiastic public that has supported them this season.
“We really had incredible support, especially during the playoffs,” Julie Chu recalls. It’s a chance for us to play in Montreal; the families and loved ones of the players will be able to see them play in a major competition, it’s very exciting.
“The Montreal public has always been very supportive of women’s hockey and I hope they will be there for all the games, because all the teams, all the girls deserve to be encouraged. »
There had been such an atmosphere in the CEPSUM amphitheater for a long time and the Carabins took advantage of it Thursday night to earn a decisive 4-1 victory over the University of New Brunswick Reds. They have qualified for the semi-finals of the Canadian University Hockey Championships, where they will face the Mount Royal University Cougars on Saturday.
“The crowd was incredible,” said Mylène Lefebvre, player of the game with two goals. We wanted to play with energy, but the crowd really carried us. They have a good goalkeeper and I managed to wait for the openings. It was important to win this first match and there, we want to go all the way and continue to live this experience in front of our public. »
Head coach Isabelle Leclaire hoped her players would start the game strong and they did, but it took until halfway through the first period before Kaleigh Quennec cemented the clear domination of Les Bleues. Continuing their momentum in the second period, the Carabins added two goals.
Mylène Lefebvre first took advantage of another power play to surprise goalkeeper Kendra Woodland after showing patience in front of the net. And Amélie Poiré-Lehoux quickly added a third goal, still on the power play, after a superb climb and a pass from Audrey-Anne Veillette. In the third, Lefebvre added a fourth goal, before Lilian George deprived goalkeeper Aube Racine of a shutout by scoring a shorthanded goal late in the game.
The Mount Royal University Cougars, the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, caused a big upset Thursday in Game 1 of the Championships by beating the seeded University of Toronto Varsity Blues 3-2. The Western Conference runners-up Cougars scored two late goals to overthrow champions Ontario and secure a berth in the semifinals. Breanne Trotter scored the winning goal after catching a perfect pass from teammate Athena Hauck.
In the national semi-final, the Cougars will face the Carabins, while the Varsity Blues will face the New Brunswick Reds in the consolation semi-final on Saturday morning.