A Well-Bonded Women’s Team

How Chemistry Catalyzes the Women’s Hockey Success

Photo Valentine Alibert

Once the confetti was swept and the hangovers were cured, the defending National Championship Stingers’ women’s hockey team had an extensive workload in preparation for and during the 2022-23 campaign. 

The labouring tasks included the replacement of core veteran players who were key contributors in the 2021-22 season, the integration of freshmen recruits and the acclamation of inexperienced players into starting role minutes. Still, the biggest obstacle was establishing a new identity for a team full of unfamiliar faces. All of this had to be addressed while managing the grossly augmented expectations thrust upon the program following its success. 

At the end of the first half of this season, the Stingers eased the bulk of these concerns. The team accomplished this feat by being just that, a team. 

Women’s hockey head coach Julie Chu established from the start with her team that national rankings and standings are disregardable and that improvement is the main focus. “Our biggest thing is, ‘are we getting better as a team?’” she said. “I do think we’re doing that, and that’s a positive”. 

For chemistry to be built and bonds to be tightly solidified within a nascent group, it helps to use a catalyst. To accelerate the results, the Stingers did not need to look far, relying on the veteran players to establish a routine.  

“We were coming in with a lot of experience and a lot of people who won that national championship last year,” said Stingers captain and defenseman Olivia Hale. “We know what it takes to win that gold medal at the end [...]. We’re a young team that’s still learning, but we’re a fighting team. [...] With our strong defence and powerhouse offence, we’re going to be a contender again this year.”

The program has its fair share of traditions still practiced by the 2023 group. Noticeably, the full team bench slide is executed by the players before every period, while behind the scenes discussions on the future of the women’s game are explored, an aspect the staff prides itself on representing. 

At its core, the players are an empathetic collective. When it comes to the modern-day characterization of the group, with new players come new skills. These skillsets sustain a fast-paced offensive attack, while simultaneously integrating diversity of individual strengths. 

The offensive attack is exuded by speedy elite playmakers and snipers. For example, forwards Emmy Fecteau and Jessymaude Drapeau have a knack for applying pressure when entering into the opposing end. Defensive two-way veterans like Leonie Philbert and Alexandre-Ann Boyer complement the team’s ability to circulate the puck well. The sole problem is that none of these players measure more than five-and-a-half feet tall. 

Knowing this, the Stingers added in some size. Along with the six-foot second-year forward Meagan Bureau-Gagnon, there’s five-foot-ten forward Courtney Rice and six-foot-one defenseman Camille Richard. 

“For a long time, we had a lot of shorter players just because character-wise, talent-wise they fit into our program,” acknowledged Chu. “It just happens now that we have a few taller players [...].  They bring a different element allowing us to be successful.”

The taller players have impacted the game using their long reach to disrupt opposing skaters who carry the puck, while allowing them to protect it when in their possession. Richard, specifically, is pencilled in frequently to the starting lineup despite her freshmen status.  

Richard is well-aware of her size and says it’s a huge asset for “getting to the [opposing] girls at the blue line and when in the corner [fighting for the puck].”

All these components have influenced the outcome of the hockey year’s first half. As it currently stands, the Stingers are 10-3-0. They top the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec division and have sustained their number one ranking in U Sports. 

“I like our chemistry. I think it’s something we’re going to rely on and continue to build” — Julie Chu, Stingers head coach

With the highs come a camaraderie in celebration, yet this camaraderie is also present during tough losses. Most recently, in the Dec. 2 defeat against the Bishop’s University Gaiters, Concordia had a comeback thwarted by a goalpost. A shot that was mere inches from knotting the game at four apiece, clanging off of the right post. With the missed attempt, the Gaiters travelled the length of the ice and netted the puck into the open goal. 

“We always say, ‘When a team has good chemistry, that goes beyond winning,’” said Chu following the loss. “It’s easy during adversity to come apart. [...] I like our chemistry. I think it’s something we’re going to rely on and continue to build”. 

All in all, the narrative of the 2022-23 campaign has been one navigated by a collective that skates a long road together. Despite the numerous obstacles that lay in their path, the women’s team is completing it together. 

This article originally appeared in Volume 43, Issue 8, published December 6, 2022.