Pucks Across the Pond: National Squad Overpowers Stingers

  • Photo by Jaymee Shell

The women’s hockey team didn’t win one game on their Japanese tour this winter break, but looking at the opposition faced, their struggles are understandable.

The Stingers squared off against the Japanese national team, ranked 11th in the world, and came close to beating them.

They tied 1-1, lost 4-0, and then lost again 1-0 in Tokyo, and also played against Japanese club team SEIBU Princess Rabbits, again losing twice (by two goals) and tying once.
But the defeats weren’t shrugged off as a case of nothing lost, nothing gained—the team wanted to do better.

“We got down on ourselves because expectations were high,” said second-year right-winger Jaymee Shell. “We were representing the whole country against Japan.”

Quite literally, the scoreboard read ‘Canada’ instead of Concordia, so a lot of weight was placed on the girls to perform, which is something coach Les Lawton is proud of the team for handling.

“The Japanese team would play a game the night before, practice in the morning, and then run for half the duration of our practice.” Stingers right-winger Jamie Shell

The coach was quick to bring up where the team fell short, though.

“We turned the puck over quite a bit, and they certainly could outskate us,” said Lawton. “We didn’t play poorly, it was just adjustments we had to deal with.”

Adjustments like playing on an international ice surface (which is much wider than a North American rink), the distraction of being abroad in a different country and the pace of the game set by the national team’s stringent fitness and conditioning.

“The Japanese team would play a game the night before, practice in the morning, and then run for half the duration of our practice,” said Shell of the Japanese women’s stamina.

Conditioning, however, isn’t the only thing the Japanese team showed the Stingers how to do. On the last night of the trip their opponents took them out for karaoke and, being gracious hosts, they put on an artist with distinctly Quebecois roots—Céline Dion.

“We all sung the theme song to Titanic,” said Shell. “Everyone was singing along, and we were all motioning with our hands out wide like we were in front of the boat, like the movie. It was an experience I won’t forget.”

However, the karaoke probably wasn’t the most stereotypical Japanese scenario some of the women faced on their time on the island. On the steps of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace, something unusual for the Montrealers—but frightfully all too common for the Japanese—happened: an earthquake struck.

“On the steps one girl felt shaking and we just thought the steps weren’t sturdy. But then we went onto the ground and it continued shaking,” said Shell of the Jan. 2 quake, which measured 7.0 on the Richter scale. “It just completed our experience. We can now say we survived an earthquake.”

Although the team’s results were a little shaky in Japan, they learned some on-ice lessons that might be needed in order to survive the playoff race for the national championships.
“I think this trip served as a catalyst for a playoff push,” said Shell. “Instead of being home on Christmas break, we played six times and practiced.”

In fact, coach Lawton—the winningest coach in Canadian women’s university hockey—is both optimistic and confident heading into the second half of the season.

“It is realistic to win the CIS Championship,” said Lawton. “It’s really up for grabs, everyone’s beating everybody and it’s just about someone getting hot.”

The Stingers sit 14 points behind first place McGill in the standings and need to finish in the top two to make Nationals.

Their first chance to start getting hot will come this Friday at Loyola when they host McGill, aiming to avenge the 6-2 loss handed to them by the Martlets before the winter break. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.

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