Starting the New Year in Style
Stingers Set Milestones in Men’s Hockey Weekend Wins
The Concordia Stingers men’s hockey team may not have ended 2013 the way they’d hoped, but they’ve certainly kicked off the new year in style.
Coming off a tough 8-3 loss to the Ontario University Athletics top-ranked Ryerson Rams on Nov. 30 to drop to 4-8-3 on the season —barely holding onto the eighth and final playoff spot in their division—the Stingers came back strong in their first two games this weekend, beating the Laurentian Voyageurs 5-1 Friday night before defeating the Nipissing Lakers 5-2 the following afternoon.
The weekend marked the Stingers’ first consecutive wins of the season and brought their regular-season record on home ice at Ed Meagher Arena to an even 4-4.
Most importantly, the two wins propelled the team into sixth place in the OUA East Division with a 6-8-3 record.
“I think we’re working very hard as one of the youngest teams in the country,” said head coach Kevin Figsby.
“When you’re in a race like we are, you’re not just trying to [ensure] your playoff berth as soon as possible; we’re trying to get ourselves up there with four of the top 10 teams in the country.”
Playing a big role in Concordia’s wins was team captain George Lovatsis, who finished the weekend with two goals and five points overall.
Of those goals, the one scored against Lakers goaltender Kirk Rafuse on Saturday afternoon figures to be the most memorable for Lovatsis: the goal was the 50th of his Canadian Interuniversity Sport career.
“I was really happy we were able to get the wins this weekend,” said the fifth-year senior.
“I guess we don’t play that many games, so 50 overall in a career is a nice milestone to hit.
“I don’t think many people do it often,” he continued.“Being in the second half of what is the end of my CIS career I want to do as much as I can to help the team to come out on top.”
The milestone drew Figsby’s praise.
“George is the first person I’ve seen score 50 goals in my 14 years [coaching the Stingers],” said Figsby.
“In four-and-a-half years with Concordia, to score 50 goals and we still have half a season to go, that’s a tremendous milestone. It just speaks volumes of his character, his person and his work ethic.”
But Lovatsis’s goal wasn’t the only milestone of the weekend.
Three Stingers scored their first goals in a Maroon and Gold uniform in Friday’s game: centreman Hugo Vincent, winger Anthony Nobili and newly-acquired defenceman Jeremy Barriault, whose goal came in his first-ever game as a Stinger.
Another first was for alternate captain Youssef Kabbaj, who returned to the ice this past weekend after missing most of the season to injury.
“It feels amazing, two-and-a-half months out and to come back with a great performance for all of us, was great,” said Kabbaj.
“I know maybe it wasn’t my best game [Friday], but for a first game back I feel good physically; my mental game will come back more and more with each game back.”
Not to be overlooked in the team’s two-game winning streak is the performance of sophomore goaltender Antonio Mastropietro, who turned aside 63 of the 66 shots he faced over the weekend.
“It’s probably the best game I’ve seen us play since I’ve been at Concordia,” he said after Friday’s game.
“It was really a great game. My defence really helped me see the puck, and when that happens it makes the game easier.”
Five points ahead of the eighth-place Lakers in the OUA East standings with 11 games left, Concordia controls its own destiny to the playoffs. The team is currently 10 points behind the fifth-place Ottawa Gee-Gees.
The Stingers will look to narrow that gap this Friday when they take on the Carleton Ravens at Ed Meagher Arena. Puck drops at 7:30 p.m.
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