Men’s Hockey Preview: Concordia Replacing Stars With Depth

Stingers Looking for Success with New Talent in 2017-18

The Stingers will look to improve on their early playoff exit from a year ago. Photo Matt Garies
Concordia will turn to new talent to replace their former stars. Photo Matt Garies

An offseason that started with some big losses for the Concordia Stingers men’s hockey team wrapped up with a strong camp and some new faces looking to make an impact.

“Were still going to be a young team but we’ve got a couple of surprises, we’re playing well,” said head coach Marc-André Élement, the 2017 Ontario University Athletics coach of the year.

The team has to be hoping that those young surprises will help offset the loss of star forwards Olivier Hinse and Anthony De Luca, who are now playing in the Metal Ligaen—Denmark’s premier professional hockey league.

Hinse, now a member of the Aalborg Pirates, was a powerful fixture for the Stingers on and off the ice as the team’s captain and one of their strongest offensive weapons. Of his five seasons with the team, the former Stinger averaged over a point per game in four of them.

De Luca, on the other hand, surprised many by following up his OUA Rookie of the Year season by leaving Concordia after just one year to join the Frederikshavn White Hawks.

Despite losing two offensive weapons, the team’s outlook on their season is quite bright according to freshman defender Carl Neill.

“[Camp was] real positive,” said Neill. “I think the guys are excited for this year. they’re excited for what’s to come. Were a good group if you look on paper, a pretty talented squad.”

Élement and his players feel that the team is talented and deep enough to find enough offense across their lineup that they won’t be hurt by their recent departures.

“We lost two really good players up front in our former captain Hinse and our former MVP in De Luca but we’ve gotten better everywhere,” said Philippe Hudon, who will succeed Hinse as team captain.

“I’m excited, everyone’s going to have a pretty extensive role this year and even though we lost two star forwards, we expect everyone to put the puck in the net so [scoring] is going to be a collective goal this year,” Hudon continued.

Part of that goal could very well be met by an improved defense led by Neill. The former Vancouver Canuck draft pick is set to anchor the Stingers defense this season, while providing the same offensive punch he was known for in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Élement believes Neill will quickly become one of the league’s top defenders. Though it is much smaller than its 13-member 2016 edition, the incoming freshman class is full of top notch talent.

Along with Neill, forwards Alexis Pépin and Massimo Carozza look to be strong additions this season. Pépin, the former second overall draft pick in the QMJHL draft, stands at 6’3 and weighs in at 218 pounds, adding some size as well as skill to the Stingers as a power forward.

Carozza may not bring that size but has the skill and top end speed to be a difference maker for the Stingers throughout the year. Carozza’s junior career earned him the distinction of attending the Montreal Canadiens development camp last summer.

Seeing what new players like this can bring to the table, head scout Justin Shemie sees this offseason as a true upgrade to the team’s skill level and potential over last season.

“Last year we really established ourselves as contender, bringing in 13 new players. This was more of a regular recruiting class. Not as many players coming in, but top end talent,” said Shemie.

The Stingers are reloading, not rebuilding in 2017-18. Photo Matt Garies

“I definitely think it’s more of an add-on to last year’s team. We only lost two players so it’s more of a major improvement than it is a rebuild,” he continued.

There certainly is returning talent to add onto for the Stingers. With players like Anthony Beauregard (19 points in 12 games last season), Philippe Sanche (30 points in 26 games) and Alexandre Gosselin (named to the OUA all-rookie team), the new recruits have plenty of experienced talent to play with.

The team is hoping that this infusion of skill and speed will help them improve on their second round exit from the OUA playoffs last season. A mindset of making the game more difficult for opponents should be at the heart of this Concordia team.

“The biggest threat for other teams is that we’re going to be a fast team, always in their face,” said Hudon. “I think we’re going to be a team that’s really hard to play against in that sense.”

The Stingers open their season Friday, Oct. 13 against the McGill Redmen. The two rivals will battle it out four times throughout the 2017-2018 season.

In a previous version of this article it was mentioned that Anthony De Luca was the OUA MVP, he was in fact the OUA Rookie of the Year. The Link regrets the error.