An Offseason of Changes for Men’s Hockey
New Additions and Crucial Departures for the Stingers in the Offseason
It’s been an offseason of peaks and valleys so far for Concordia’s men’s hockey team. After coming off the most successful season the program had seen in over 30 years and a trip to the national championship, the last few weeks have been filled with a storm of roster movements for the Stingers.
The team continued its trend of large recruiting classes. Last year’s recruits brought in the likes of rookie all-stars Carl Neill and Massimo Carozza in addition to Alexis Pepin, William Gignac and Jean-Philippe Beaulieu. The year before that, the list of recruits hit the double digits and had names like Anthony Beauregard, Philippe Sanche, and Marc-Antoine Turcotte.
This year’s crop of rookies is headlined by defender Bradley Lalonde.
“Bradley has been a highly touted player since he was 15 years old […] he skates really well, he’s got an incredible shot […] seeing someone like that come to our program is really exciting,” said Stingers head scout Justin Shemie, praising Lalonde’s leadership and strong two way play.
Harwell and Hugo Roy will already have at least one friend on the team as each spent time on the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Sherbrooke Phoenix team that was captained by Concordia’s Carl Neill a few years ago.
“I was helping with the recruiting a bit this year, trying to get guys to come from Sherbrooke,” said Neill, with a laugh. “It’s fun, Chase [Harwell] is one of my best buddies and Hugo [Roy] is a really good guy as well. It’s good to get some guys you know on the team, especially when you know they’re good teammates.”
The addition of these rookies has head coach Marc-André Élement expecting to be coaching a young team this year.
“They’re gonna have an important role right away. This is what’s fun about coming to Concordia,” said Élement of his new recruits. “It’s a big opportunity for them to play lots of minutes right away. It’s gonna be a good battle to get new spots in the lineup.”
Those new spots come from losses that have Élement less than excited.
Every year players graduate from the program. That’s simply the nature of university hockey. This year that meant the departures of Scott Oke, Raphael Lafontaine, Dominic Beauchemin and Antoine Masson.
On top of this, rookie William Gignac transferred schools and the team’s top two scorers, league MVP Anthony Beauregard and rookie all-star Massimo Carozza, left for pro deals in the American Hockey League and Europe respectively.
“They’re gonna have the chance to prove themselves but we have high expectations for some guys.” — Marc-André Élement
While the Stingers have recruited some strong players, they had two potential gamebreakers committed to the program that will not be in the lineup for next season. Jeffrey Truchon-Viel and Phelix Martineau both signed letters of intent, guaranteeing their university hockey rights to the Stingers. However, both were offered professional contracts early in the offseason.
According to Élement, Martineau in particular had gotten far along in the process of joining the team and was disappointed not be joining them in the fall. The Stingers head coach said that there are no hard feelings and he is extremely happy to see the young player finding success. Élement also notes that it is always possible for Martineau to return after Christmas under the right conditions should he wish to join the U Sports ranks.
It’s interesting to note that several years ago, Concordia was neither attracting players of this calibre or graduating players to the professional level as they are right now. While it may mean they lose some talented players, it is still a mark of pride for Élement’s program.
These losses have put the team’s head coach and his team into hardcore recruiting mode. With about two and a half months left until training camp and the junior league playoffs only officially ending this past week, they are exhausting all avenues to bring in new players.
“We’re looking everywhere to get better,” said Élement who talked of expanding Concordia’s recruiting range to the Western and Ontario Hockey Leagues at the end of the season.
As much as these losses may be difficult for the team, the Stingers are still feeling confident about the rookie class they’re bringing in and the players returning from last year’s Ontario University Athletics bronze medal-winning team.
Lalonde in particular is a player that Élement feels can replace lost offence.
“He’s gonna be a big help. Now that we’re losing Beauregard and Carozza, an offensive blue line is gonna be big. Our [defensive] squad is going to have to help generate offence,” said Élement.
It certainly looks capable of doing just that. With the addition of Lalonde to a group already containing all-stars like Carl Neill and Alexandre Gosselin among others, the defence has certainly improved over the last few seasons.
The team is hoping that players like Neill, who was named an assistant captain, and captain Philippe Hudon will be able to help prepare the rookies and have them ready to contribute right away.
For now, Élement and his coaching staff, including former NHL goalie coach Jim Corsi who is expected to return next season, are looking ahead to training camp and seeing what their team looks like on the ice.
“You have to wait and see with training camp. It’s a big step to come from junior to playing university hockey,” said Élement. “They’re gonna have the chance to prove themselves but we have high expectations for some guys.”
The team’s training camp is set to begin in August.
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