Arianne Leblanc: One save at a time

The Stinger’s rookie sensation is already turning heads a couple games into the season

Arianne Leblanc stares at the action on the ice from the bench on Nov. 3. Photo Alice Martin

Newly-recruited Concordia student and psychology major Arianne Leblanc is one of the brightest young prospects in all of varsity women’s hockey.

Before even starting her varsity career, Leblanc has already added many feats to her resume. Earlier this year, she won gold as a member of Team Canada, shutting out Finland at the IIHF World Women’s U18 Championship and she has represented Quebec at the most recent Canada Winter Games. Now, Leblanc has chosen Concordia to be her home for the next five years. 

With poise beyond her years between the pipes, the young talent has already accomplished more than what some athletes dream of. All this success, at only 18 years-old.

Born and raised in Repentigny, Que. Leblanc started playing hockey roughly ten years ago, following in the footsteps of her brothers, Cédric and Alexandre.

“I was always going to watch their games,” she said. “One of them was a goalie and my dad was a goalie as well. I never wanted to be a player.”

Even with her familial ties to the position, that wasn’t what ultimately drew her to becoming a goaltender. “The main thing that got me into it was the movie Les Pee-Wee 3D. There was a girl goalie and I just wanted to do the same thing,” Leblanc said.

Inspired by Alice Morel-Michaud’s character “Julie" in the iconic Quebec hockey movie, Leblanc forged her own path and quickly cemented herself as one of the best U18 hockey goaltenders in the country. During her high school career at Stanstead College, she amassed an impressive 31-6-1 record as their starting goaltender.

She brings a lot to the team, she works very hard and she always has a smile on her face. Even though she’s only a first-year, she’s taken her place very quickly and she’s going to be an amazing goaltender. — Emmy Fecteau

Now that Leblanc is in university, she has to conquer the next step in her hockey career, and that’s where Concordia comes in.

“For me, when it came to Canadian universities, Concordia was the only choice,” said Leblanc, with certainty. “I know that [by] going to Concordia, I would be in really great hands for five years. The team culture really fits me and my personality.”

Given the leadership and experience of the coaching staff, led by two former Olympians—head coach Julie Chu and assistant coach Caroline Ouellette—the Stingers women’s hockey team has everything they need to succeed.

“Julie’s one of the best coaches in the league,” said the rookie goaltender. “She brings out the best in our team by bringing her positive attitude to the rink everyday. Having a coach like her that’s genuinely so positive makes the team the same. It leads to a very fun environment.”

The idea of learning from two pillars of women’s hockey was an opportunity Leblanc couldn’t pass up.

“Our coaches are unmatched in the league, Caro and Julie have definitely impacted my decision because I know how amazing they are,” Leblanc added.

For Chu, it was always Leblanc’s work ethic that stood out to her.

“What’s great about Arianne is that she has a great mindset about wanting to get pushed and wanting to work hard,” Chu said. “She’s been great with us this year already and I think she’s only going to grow and get better every week and every game she gets the opportunity to play.”

When asked about the adjustment period to university hockey, Chu was confident that Leblanc was only going to get better.

“She takes feedback really well from our goaltending coach and has been able to make some adjustments from the way that she played in high school to the way she needs to play here to be successful,” Chu said.

Leblanc knows that the road to becoming an elite goaltender in U Sports is a tough task, but it always begins with practice. By putting in countless hours of work with goaltending coach Olivier Gervais and in the gym, she aims to take her game to the next level. She’s embraced the challenges of varsity sports and used the experiences she’s gained with Team Canada to her advantage.

“As a rookie, you really have to step in and prove yourself. It’s a massive step-up from high school hockey,” said Leblanc. “The plays and executions are a lot quicker, but it helps to have my team to practice with because we have some of the best players in the league.”

Fifth-year player and newly-named Stingers captain Emmy Fecteau has seen many players come and go from the Stingers organization. However, she instantly knew Leblanc was special when Fecteau saw her play at a 3v3 tournament this past summer. 

“I was really impressed by her, she made a lot of really big saves and she’s always competing for the puck,” said Fecteau. “She brings a lot to the team, she works very hard and she always has a smile on her face. Even though she’s only a first-year, she’s taken her place very quickly and she’s going to be an amazing goaltender.”

Going into the 2023-24 season, the expectations could not be higher for Leblanc and the Stingers. On the backs of another Réseau des sports étudiants du Québec championship, the Stingers are hoping to repeat their success with a slightly different goalie rotation.

With former starting goaltender and veteran all-star Alice Philbert off to play professional hockey in France, the crease will be under new command. Langley, B.C. native Jordyn Verbeek will take the reins as the starter, and the 18-year-old Leblanc will be the back up. Sixth-year veteran Madison Oakes will also fight for time in the crease creating some healthy competition.

“They’ve all come in prepared, they’ve filled in the big shoes Alice has left behind,” said Chu. “Not that we don’t miss Alice, but now it’s their team.”

So far this season, Leblanc has amassed a perfect 4-0-0 record, a .929 save percentage and a 1.47 goals against average—impressive statistics for anyone, let alone an 18-year-old freshman.