Concordia 3, UOIT 2: Hudon’s Overtime Goal Brings Out the Brooms to Close Intense Series
Stingers Complete The Sweep of their First Round Opponents in Hard-Fought Contest
“I couldn’t hear anything. I was just so happy.”
That’s how Stingers captain Philippe Hudon described the feeling of ending his team’s round one battle of the Ontario University Athletics playoffs.
Hudon was the hero of the night with an overtime goal that completed a two game sweep of the Ontario University Institute of Technology Ridgebacks, sending his team skating into the second round.
“We battled here, we battled [in their arena]. For us it was a good challenge for what’s going to come next,” said Hudon.
The veteran forward made sure to, as his coach loves to say, “pay the price” for his team. Along with his teammates, Hudon took plenty of physical punishment through both games of the series.
Playing with a caged helmet, the Stingers captain didn’t let a broken nose stop him from giving as many hits as he took, either.
“It was physical, it was a hard series. It was two teams battling hard for the series,” said Stingers head coach Marc-Andre Element.
After a 4-1 win in the first game, the Stingers faced much tougher competition from a UOIT team that had their backs against the wall. The hits were big and the Ridgebacks made sure to be in the Stingers faces as of the moment the puck dropped.
But the Stingers wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s cool, this is why we love to play hockey,” said Stingers star forward Anthony Beauregard, praising the intensity and atmosphere of the playoffs.
It’s not hard to see that Beauregard’s teammates are relishing in the environment as well. A full arena of cheering fans and loud drums mixed with the on-ice intensity seemed to pump the players up a few notches.
Raphael Lafontaine certainly seemed extra excited to score his first period goal, giving his team an early 1-0 lead, scooping the ice with his glove, and jumping for joy as he skated back to the bench.
Of course, the game also brought out the other side of the spectrum when it comes to intensity. The physicality and post whistle roughness was apparent on both sides. Heavy hits that rattled the boards, cross checkings, and post-play scrums are a staple of playoff hockey. Incidents like Beauregard being pinned in a corner and punched repeatedly in the face away from the play are perhaps a bit more than the usual.
The rough stuff was what gave Concordia room to extend their lead in the second period. With players from both teams serving minors and the game set for four-on-four, forward Charles-Eric Legare used the open space to drive to the net and earn a scoring chance that found its way onto defender Mathieu Desautel’s stick and into the net, courtesy of defender Carl Neill.
“I saw a hole and I know Desautels’ got some pretty good hockey sense so I thought I may as well try it and hope he sees me. He saw me and it worked out pretty well,” said the league leader in points for a defender.
Neill and the rest of Concordia’s defense made sure UOIT weren’t the only ones dishing out hits. The Ridgebacks forwards were hit relentlessly and repeatedly had their scoring chances shut down by smart stick work and heavy physical play from Concordia’s back end.
Players like Curtis Gass and Anthony Gingras found a new level to their game that kept UOIT on their toes all night.
Concordia’s coach was full of praise for his defense, mentioning how important it was that every member found a way to step up in the absence of top defender Alexandre Gosselin, who has been out of the lineup since Concordia’s Feb 2. game against the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees.
Neill, however, was quick to ensure the rest of the team got credit before allowing any praise to be given to the defense
“Gotta give credit to the forwards and [goalie Marc-Antoine] Turcotte but the [defense] played a pretty good game,” said Neill.
Though their defense was vexing, Neill’s team nearly saw a comeback occur when the Ridgebacks managed to score goals in the dying minutes of both the second and third periods.
Element made sure his players didn’t get down on themselves heading into overtime.
“We just told the guys ‘we’re going to get it.’ When stuff like that happens, you’ve got to stay positive,” said the Stingers coach.
That optimism would turn out to be well founded. Just a few minutes into the extra frame, Forward Francis Brunelle forced his way into the UOIT zone with a strong rush and drew a hooking penalty from a Ridgeback defender.
“I don’t even remember. I got the puck on my stick and I just wanted to bury that puck,” said Hudon. From his knees, he pushed the puck into the UOIT net and sent the crowd into a frenzy.
As happy as Hudon and his teammates are, their eyes are already set on the future.
“We want to win six games, we’ve won two but we need to stay focused for the other ones,” said Beauregard.
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