Stingers Men’s Hockey: ‘A Year of Adversity’
Injuries and Inconsistency Derail Season
“This was a year of adversity. I think we’ll be better, even the coaching staff, because of the adversity we faced. It’s not an excuse for not going far [in the playoffs though],” said Stingers men’s hockey coach Marc-André Élement.
It was a difficult finish to the season for the Stingers. Coming off of their first trip to nationals in over 30 years as one of the top teams in the country, a first round playoff exit wasn’t the next step the team was looking for.
Eliminated by the Queen’s Golden Gaels, Élement and his team must now look past a tumultuous year and see what needs to be done to get back to where they were this time last year.
The Stingers coach described it as a year of adversity, but if there were a word to describe the season more specifically it would be injuries. Every team deals with usual bumps and bruises and a few players having to miss time but Élement said it felt as if every week something new hit the team.
A list of players who had to miss time because of this: Anthony Gingras, Chase Harwell, Alexandre Gosselin, Charles-Éric Légaré, Francis Brunelle, Philippe Charbonneau, Colin Grannary, Mathieu Desautels, and Brendan Hamelin.
It was bad enough that during the first half of the season, before his injury, Charbonneau had to play forward instead of his usual position on defence at time due to the sheer number of injured players.
That’s not taking into account players like top forward Philippe Sanche or both the team’s starting goaltenders who were playing injured throughout parts of the year and the playoffs.
With the team so often being unsure who would be available to play and when certain players might be back from injury, the Stingers brought in several players for the winter semester. While that added depth and internal competition, it meant an already large rookie class grew even larger.
“It’s not an easy league to play in, especially in your first year. You have to adjust. It’s fast, physical,” said Élement.
A team with 18 rookies means a lot of learning curves and time needed to build chemistry. Perhaps so many rookies and the fact that 31 players suited up for the Stingers this season can explain the other issue that hurt their season: inconsistency.
The Stingers often looked like a different team throughout the season. Some nights they would take down top tier teams like the Ottawa Gee Gee’s or the Ryerson Rams and look like a team that belonged at nationals. Other nights they lost to teams like Laurential or the Royal Military College and had trouble finding the offensive spark that made them dangerous.
In a season as short as 28 games, you can’t afford to waver too much. Despite the early exit and consistency issues, the team did have some bright spots.
“We also had some nice surprises this year. First-year guys that stepped in. [Defenceman Bradley] Lalonde had a good season. Charlie Roy, Hugo Roy. These guys were good surprises and projects we worked on. I think we have a good future coming at Concordia,” said Élement.
Lalonde and Charlie Roy certainly impressed as a pair of rookie defenders. Lalonde was one of the Stingers most potent offensive weapons by season’s end and Roy became a dependable staple on the blue line as a shut down defender.
Hugo Roy stepped in as a rookie and immediately became the team’s first line centre and one of the country’s top goal scorers. His strong two way play mixed with his offensive production earned the young centre a professional contract with the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League.
He is the latest in a string of first and second year players to earn a pro contract after a strong year at Concordia. Anthony Beauregard, Massimo Carozza, and Anthony De Luca each left for the pros after one or two years as well.
It was also a career year for two departing Stingers. Légaré and graduating captain Philippe Hudon both put up the best point totals of their U SPORTS careers and were powerful two way contributors.
Légaré is leaving after his fourth year to pursue a career in Europe after finishing the rest of the season with the ECHL’s Maine Mariners on an amateur tryout contract. Hudon is the most notable member of a graduating class that also includes Anthony Gingras, centre Julien Avon, and defender Curtis Gass.
“I’m very fortunate to have been there since the beginning and watch the team grow and making [nationals] to end a 30 odd year drought,” said Hudon. “It just makes me feel like I was part of something a whole lot bigger than me. I’m very appreciative of that. It’s something I’m gonna remember for the rest of my life.”
With Hudon, Hugo Roy, and Légaré leaving the program, the team’s top six takes a heavy hit. They will have to dip into their large recruiting class from this year and look for those players to continue to take a step forward.
There is also optimism within the team about prospects coming into the program. The team has announced the signing of major junior forward recruits Tyler Hylland and Alex Katerinakis; and defenders Gabriel Bilodeau and Pascal Corbeil have signed letters of intent with the team as well.
If the roster’s remaining defenders stay with the team next year, the new recruits will bring the team up to 10 defencemen. That means internal competition, something Stingers defenceman Carl Neill likes and thinks will give the team a big boost moving forward.
“With the depth that we have, the players we have coming in, and the name the program is making for itself, it’s just a matter of time before it’s back to nationals for us,” said Neill.