Stingers Fall Seconds Short of National Championship

Women’s Hockey Team Upset by Cougars in 4-3 Overtime Loss

Photo Ivan de Jacquelin
Photo Ivan de Jacquelin
Photo Ivan de Jacquelin
Photo Ivan de Jacquelin
Photo Ivan de Jacquelin

The defending national champion Concordia Stingers found themselves in familiar territory on Sunday, March 19, as they battled for gold versus the Mount Royal Cougars in the 2023 U Sports National Championship at l’Université de Montréal’s CEPSUM arena. 

The outcome was different this time around, with the Stingers women’s hockey team dropping a 4-3 decision in overtime. With their net empty, the Cougars tied the game with 1.8 seconds remaining in the third period to force the extra frame.

“We’re proud of them,” said Stingers head coach Julie Chu of her team postgame. “We came short of that last goal of ours, but it doesn’t take away from the goals that we did achieve and the character that we have in that room.”

Coming off a second consecutive Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec championship, the No. 3-seeded Stingers were matched up against the No. 6-seeded Nipissing Lakers in the tournament’s quarterfinal. This game was a rematch of last year’s final in Charlottetown, P.E.I., where the Stingers won by a score of 4-0 to earn their first national championship since 1999.

From the first drop of the puck to the final buzzer, the Stingers dominated the pace of play. Concordia had a whopping ten power play opportunities, four of which they capitalized on. Special teams were the difference, as Stingers forward Chloé Gendreau and defender Alexandra-Anne Boyer tallied two points apiece en route to a 5-1 Concordia victory.

In the semifinal, the Stingers faced the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, who were ranked second in the country.

The Stingers were up to the task, winning the game 3-1 thanks to a glistening performance from forward Rosalie Bégin-Cyr. She scored two goals on the night, including the eventual game-winner, and blocked several key shots in the third period to ensure a Stingers victory. Goaltender Alice Philbert made 18 saves for Concordia.

The stage was now set for the gold medal game against the No. 8-seeded Cougars, who were poised to complete a miracle run after stunning the heavily favoured Toronto Varsity Blues and the host Université de Montréal Carabins in the opening two rounds.

It was a night full of wild momentum swings, with the Stingers drawing first blood in the second period. Just two minutes in, forward Chloé Gendreau intercepted a pass in the offensive zone and sprung free to slide a nifty backhand shot underneath Cougars netminder Kaitlyn Ross.

Both teams maintained equal footing through the halfway mark of the game, with neither one taking more than a single penalty and shot differentials being held to a minimum. The Cougars found their stride in the final three minutes of the middle stanza, as defender Tori Williams equalized the score with a booming slapshot from the blueline.

The Cougars carried the pace of play early into the third period, with forward Breanne Trotter snapping in a power play goal on the doorstep only two minutes in. Bégin-Cyr and the Stingers tilted the ice back in their favour soon after, as the second-team all-star handcuffed Ross with a slick penalty shot to tie it.

That reality of going back-to-back drew closer for the defending champions after forward Megan Bureau-Gagnon converted on the power play to give the Stingers a 3-2 lead with just eight minutes to play. Trotter put those dreams to rest with less than two seconds to go, scoring a heroic one-timed shot from the faceoff dot for her second goal of the contest.

Overtime opened with a Stingers power play, but the team was unable to capitalize. Moments later, Cougars defender Emma Bergesen made her opponents pay. Close to 11 minutes in, the Norwegian product hustled to the net and buried the dagger to win the Cougars their first Golden Path Trophy.

Elation and excitement on one side of the ice translated to instant heartbreak on the other. Regardless of the result, Chu had nothing but praise for the way her team performed this season. “I saw grit, I saw patience, I saw trusting the process, and a team that bought into wanting to get better every day,” she explained. “At some point, when the sting goes away, they’re going to be really proud of what they earned this year as well.”

The sting was still fresh in mind for forward Emmy Fecteau, whose thoughts were with her graduating teammates after the devastating loss. “It’s really hard, I wanted to win for them,” Fecteau said through tears, alluding to Olivia Hale, Alice Philbert, Alexandra Boulanger and her longtime friend Bégin-Cyr. “I’ve been playing with Rosalie for 15 years, and it was our last game together.”

“We’re going to miss them, but we appreciate everything they’ve given,” Chu said of the four graduates. “They’re always going to be [Stingers] and they’re always going to be in our hearts.”