Concordia 6, Laurier 5: Stingers Men’s Hockey Kids are All Right
Stingers Stave Off Comeback Thanks to Strong Rookie Performances
Sometimes, you need a little bit of youthful exuberance.
The Stingers looked to be coasting to an easy victory against the visiting Laurier Golden Hawks. They were up 4-1 heading into the third period but nearly fell victim to a disastrous comeback as the Hawks would end up scoring four goals of their own, including a game-tying, 5-5 goal in the final minute of regulation.
What saved the Stingers and buoyed them to an overtime win?
In a league like U Sports, where players come and go every year and have a maximum of just five years with the team, having players that can come in and become key pieces right away is a necessity.
After last night, Concordia looks like a team that may have just that.
Five of the Stingers’ six goals were scored by rookies, and the first-year players also chipped in with a collective eight assists. The one non-rookie goal was assisted by a rookie, and the game winner in overtime was scored by rookie Liam Murphy and assisted by rookies Tyler Hylland and Pascal Corbeil.
The reason for young players being able to chip in so much is simple for Hylland.
“It’s because we get to play. [Head coach Marc-André Élement] trusts us. We didn’t come in here and start on the fourth line,” said Hylland, who scored two goals. “A lot of the time rookies have to start at the bottom and work their way up. He gave us a chance right away, gave us a big role right away.”
That trust trade-off has been a calling card of Élement’s in recent years. He puts a trust in players early on and they go to war for him. He knows things won’t go perfectly, but knows that if he wants players to become key parts of the team, they need to be given the chance.
“They’re gonna learn. We’re gonna make mistakes, but everyone has to learn,” said the Stingers coach.
He’s already put Hylland and fellow rookie Alex Katerinakis, both of whom he coached in AAA, on the team’s top line and seen strong results.
He’s also entrusted his defense to rookies, in large part. Friday’s game saw a blue line that featured three first-year players. He was rewarded with a rookie pairing that each had a multi-point night in Corbeil and Gabriel Bilodeau.
Bilodeau also notched his first U Sports goal with a powerplay marker in the first. The defenceman had missed time due to an injury at the start of the season.
The third rookie blueliner was Marcus Tesink, who found himself paired with Bradley Lalonde, one of the team’s top players and a go-to presence in difficult situations.
In total, the team played nine rookies throughout the lineup against Laurier. None of them were sheltered with easy assignments as rookies often are. There were no forward lines without at least one rookie playing and only a single defensive pairing didn’t feature a rookie.
They may be a large rookie class, but all of them are starting to find a way to leave their mark on the game in this early part of the season.
“They all stepped in pretty quick and they’re already making an impact,” said alternate captain Carl Neill. “It took a couple weeks but now they’re starting to play like veterans themselves.”
Of course Neill and his fellow veterans are guides for these younger players as well as being important producers on the ice. When Laurier scored to tie the game late, it was these players that made sure to keep the bench calm and focused instead of panicking about the lead they had given up.
They did just that as third-year centre Jean-Philippe Beaulieu drew a penalty on the next shift to set up an overtime powerplay. It would be the rookie winger Murphy, who had already scored one goal and assisted on another, who buried the game winner.
Asked about the performance of his rookie class, Murphy had a simple response.
“It shows that the future is pretty good for Concordia.”