Stingers Women’s Hockey Team Punches its Ticket to Nationals

The Team is Set to Face Carabins in RSEQ Finals

  • The Stingers move on to the next round. File Photo Daren Zomerman

Going into Sunday afternoon’s do-or-die game three of their playoff series against the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees, Stingers women’s hockey head coach Julie Chu emphasized that this was a “one game season.”

After coming out flat against the Gee-Gees 24 hours earlier in Ottawa, Chu said her team needed to play with a sense of urgency and they couldn’t play afraid. She felt that her team played reluctantly in game two, putting them in a vulnerable spot against a desperate Ottawa team.

Chu likened her team’s play in game two to the 2015-16 Canadiennes de Montreal, who finished first place in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League before losing to the Calgary Inferno in the Clarkson Cup final.

“Two years ago we played afraid against Calgary and we lost 8-3 in the finals,” said Chu. “The following year, we decided that we were going to play on our toes and we were going to push.”

Concordia’s first goal in game three was the embodiment of Chu’s assertion.

Midway through a second period power play, team captain Marie-Joëlle Allard fired a shot towards Saturday’s hero, Ottawa goaltender Maude Lévesque-Ryan. The shot was stopped, as were the next four Stingers rebounds.

Concordia will face the Carabins in the RSEQ finals. File Photo Daren Zomerman

Fittingly, the puck made its way back to Allard, who potted it, giving Concordia its first goal since Thursday.

“It felt so good to relieve a bit of the pressure we had on our shoulders,” said Allard. “I knew after that goal that we were going to win that game. It gave us a bit of confidence.”

With the lead, the team needed to find some insurance. Towards the end of the second frame, Lidia Fillion, the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec’s rookie of the year, snuck one past Lévesque-Ryan to double the lead.

It was a crucial goal. Ottawa’s Taylor McGaughey cut Concordia’s lead in half early in the third period, giving her team the burst of momentum they’d been lacking all day.

“It was a bit stressful when they scored in the beginning of the third,” said Allard.

Concordia was without regular starting goalie Katherine Purchase, who was out of the lineup for undisclosed reasons. Alice Philbert made the start in her relief and was solid all game.

“Anyone who gets the nod is ready,” said Chu. “Alice did a great job when we needed her. It was a last minute change but that’s just part of life. She found a way to be prepared.”

Philbert said she only found out she’d get the start three hours before gametime.

“Everyone on the team supported me and we really got through this as a team,” said Philbert. “Without their help, I don’t think I’d have played as well.”

When her team needed a big performance, Philbert delivered. She stopped 18 of the 19 shots sent her way, including a hair-raising Gee-Gee onslaught in the game’s dying seconds.

“The biggest thing for me was we talked about being prepared and pushing. Giving everything you have to this team so that if your moment comes, you’re ready,” said Chu. “And Alice was ready for it.”

Moving On

Allard would have been playing her final game as a Stinger had the team lost. Instead, her team is headed for the RSEQ finals and have clinched a spot in the U Sports national tournament.

Still, she hopes her team won’t get too far ahead of themselves.

“We decided in April that our goal was going to be to win the season, win the playoffs, and the nationals,” said the fifth-year senior. “But we want to focus on the next step ahead of us and I think we’re doing that right now.”

The Stingers’ next task is more of a hill to climb than it is a step. They’ll be facing the Université de Montréal Carabins in the RSEQ finals, a team they’ve had nothing but tight battles with all year.

“We wanted to play [the Carabins],” said Concordia forward Claudia Dubois. “We have a good rivalry against them and we just want to beat them.”

All five of their meetings this season went to overtime, with Concordia winning the first three before dropping the last two. UdeM narrowly edged the Stingers for first place in the regular season standings.

“For sure it’s going to be physical and fast,” said Allard. “We have to start and play the full 60 minutes.”

The series gets going Thursday night, 7:00 p.m at the CEPSUM.

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