The Battle of Montreal: Concordia and McGill Hockey Teams to Clash in OUA East Final
Crosstown Rivals Go Head To Head With National Championship Berth On The Line
The Concordia Stingers men’s hockey team finds itself in new territory. Or at least territory they haven’t seen in a very long time.
For the first time since 1984, the Stingers are in the Queen’s Cup semi finals, the penultimate round of the Ontario University Athletics playoffs.
“It’s fun for the program. We received a lot of calls and emails from alumni,” said Stingers head coach Marc-André Element, who wasn’t even born the last time the team made it this far in the postseason.
The Stingers themselves are on top of the world after getting revenge on the very same Queen’s University Gaels team that eliminated them from the playoffs last year.
After the thrilling three-game series, they are just two wins away from a trip to the Queen’s Cup final as well as a berth in the U Sports national tournament in Fredericton.
Standing in their way is cross town rival McGill, a team that sat atop the OUA east standings all season long.
As one of the country’s top teams, McGill certainly poses a challenge for Concordia. Though, if this year is any sign, the best-of-three series is anyone’s to take.
In their four meetings this year, each team won two games, lost one in regulation and lost one in extra time. Every game was decided by a single goal.
Those are the kinds of games fans should expect from the playoffs according to both teams’ players.
“I expect nothing less. Both teams have a lot of depth offensively, are defensively strong and both goalies have been unreal this season,” said Jerome Verrier, McGill’s leading scorer with 41 points in 28 games.
Verrier’s analysis is accurate. McGill’s offense is top-tier and their defense is one of Canada’s best. Both teams also boast solid goaltenders in McGill’s Louis Philippe Guindon and Concordia’s Marc-Antoine Turcotte.
Despite McGill’s high talent level, Turcotte has a squad in front of him that can go toe-to-toe with them from the drop of the puck in game one.
Queen’s goaltender Kevin Bailie called Concordia’s offense “arguably the best in the country” during their series. The team boasts U Sports’ top scorer Anthony Beauregard as well as its top scoring defender in Carl Neill. They also carry four players that finished the year at over a point per game on their roster.
Defensively, the Stingers are looking strong. Neill has the profile for a rookie of the year award while last year’s all rookie team defender Alexandre Gosselin is back with the team after missing time at the end of the regular season.
The core of young defenders gave both Queen’s and first-round opponent University of Ontario Institute of Technology Ridgebacks fits throughout the playoffs.
In the end, the series may come down to how well Concordia’s offensive depth matches up against McGill’s defensive and goaltending capabilities, despite the wealth of talent on Concordia’s backend and McGill’s group of forwards.
“It’s going to be a real battle every game. We all know each other and I think every game will be a good show for the fans,” said Beauregard.
That rivalry attitude is driving both teams to expect a battle for the ages.
“We’re prepared for a huge series against Concordia. I think it’s going to be great for both universities,” said Verrier.
It’s series like these that give birth to some of hockey’s most exciting moments and game’s that can define a player. Just the way Anthony Beauregard likes it.
“When you know the rink will be packed, you want to go all out out there … This is why we love to play hockey, for moments like that, we all want to be a part of this history,” said Beauregard, who has stepped up to the rivalry pressure throughout the season.
Beauregard and his teammates have certainly found their game at the right time of the year, heading into game one at McGill Wednesday night. A rough patch before the end of the season turned into a streak of seven wins in the last eight games.
While McGill’s excellence from the start of the season is undeniable, Concordia players have found themselves surging to the top of their games more recently. Captain Phil Hudon leads the team with seven points in five games and has been on a tear since the end of the season. Players like defender Curtis Gass and forward Francis Brunelle have brought a new level to their game as well.
“It’s the time of year you want to see guys at their peak. A lot of guys picked up their game for the playoffs,” said Element.
Both teams will get to make their cases starting Wednesday night at 7 p.m from the McConnell Arena.
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