Stingers 8, Ottawa 7 (OT): New Look Stingers Explode with Confidence on Offense
Despite Defensive Troubles, Men’s Hockey Downs Seventh Ranked Gee-Gee’s
The Stingers certainly started off the decade with a bang.
After a first half of the season riddled with injuries, suspensions, and frustration, they opened the new year with an offensive explosion — an 8-7 win over the seventh nationally ranked Ottawa Gee-Gee’s.
“We can’t play football games. I know it’s [NFL] playoff season but hockey’s not the same,” laughed captain Philippe Sanche after the game.
The mood around the players was loose. You certainly don’t want to allow seven goals, giving up a two goal lead in the last three minutes of the game. That’s the kind of thing that gives head coach Marc-André Élement grey hairs.
But at the same time, the team had plenty to celebrate. They knew there had been mistakes, but they had just upset a talented team. All but five skaters registered at least a point, the team was at their best offensively, and they effectively had a full lineup for the first time since game one of the season.
The Stingers have had numerous players miss action this year, with the team even being down eight players just before the holiday break.
Now they’re looking healthy and the lineup is looking a lot deeper.
“I’m tired,” joked Sanche after being asked how he felt after his first U Sports game since sustaining a wrist injury Oct.18.
Sanche was sorely missed, but came back with his usual flair, putting up two assists and playing against Ottawa’s top line all night.
Likewise, high-end rookie Alex Katerinakis was back after missing two and a half months like Sanche. He notched an assist to go along with his first U Sports goal and a strong play in overtime that led to Carl Neill’s game winner.
Having talent like that back in the lineup was a major confidence boost for players against Ottawa and has the team feeling good moving forward. They’re not scrambling to fill holes anymore.
Goals weren’t exactly the team’s strength before the break, and this offensive burst that came with having their lineup healthy again meant the Stingers spent the game actually enjoying themselves with less stress than perhaps any time this season.
Tyler Hylland’s second period goal was the perfect symbol of this. As one of the most impressive Stingers goals in recent memory, Hylland picked up the puck around his own blueline and showed why he almost instantly became a star in this league.
“They let me get my speed going, that’s one thing you don’t want to let me get,” said Hylland.
As he accelerated, he skated and deked through four Ottawa players, looking like a player on another level. As he approached the final one between him and the net, he was forced to the outside of the net. From there, he pushed his way to the side of the net, ended up with the puck and stick blade between his legs, and flipped the puck over the goalie’s shoulder.
The crowd screamed their approval for the show of offensive flair. Hylland noted afterwards that while he hadn’t planned the move, he had been telling teammates that this would be the year he scored from between his legs.
Along with health and scoring, the team had two more christmas presents to show off in the game. Defenceman Jeremy Diotte and star centre recruit Felix Lauzon both made their Stingers debuts against Ottawa.
Diotte handled himself well in several situations and should bolster a capable defense. Lauzon is a major add for the team. Immediately paired with Katerinakis and Hylland, he recorded his first assist as a Stinger during the game.
“He’s a battler […] me, him, and Katerinakis on a line together are a match made in heaven,” said Hylland.
Lauzon, the reigning defensive forward of the year in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, is also an offensive force. He played through an illness during the game and as a result was working on shorter shifts than he would usually have been, but has heavy expectations moving forward.
Despite all of the good news, the team knows there are issues that need to be fixed.
Defensively, the game was a mess much of the time. The Stingers were outshot 52-21 and had trouble winning one on one battles in their own end.
A tired looking Élement promised plenty of video work to improve things post game.
“Our reaction time with the puck [was a problem], also our explosion, [we need to] be quicker in the d zone. We gave them so much time and space,” he said.
The team knows that they gave up bad goals but are confident the mistakes are fixable. The real lesson that they’re taking out right now is what they can do.
“This lineup we have now can compete with any team in the league,” said Hylland.