UQTR 5, Concordia 2: A Time for Learning and Evaluating
Men’s Hockey Lose First Preseason Home Game Trying a Bit Too Hard to Stand Out
It’s rare in a hockey game—especially in U Sports with so few games—that the score isn’t the point.
But that’s what you get in the preseason. The Stingers are a young, large team and have plenty of things to learn, organize, and iron out before the season starts.
The team fell 5-2 to the Université de Québec à Trois-Rivières Patriotes, in the second of a pair of matches to kick off the preseason.
And while the team would have loved to treat its fans to a win in their first game back at home since the end of last year’s playoffs, head coach Marc-André Élement is taking these games as a chance to teach his players and plan for when the games will have more of an impact.
With a 29-man roster, he has plenty of evaluating to do and decisions to make. Only 20 players can be dressed for a game each night, one of which will be the backup goalie who most likely won’t play.
Then there’s the fact that more than half the team, 15 players to be exact, are rookies that are adjusting to a new league. They’re learning what to expect on the fly and trying to prove to their coach that he recruited the right kind of player.
“There’s a lot of guys in the stands, and a lot of new guys. It’s a big recruiting class coming in. it’s the time to make a name for yourself, help the coaches understand what kind of player you are,” said Stingers all-star defenceman Carl Neill, who picked up a pair of assists in the game.
While that mentality helped the Stingers early on in the game, bringing a fierce energy to the play and pushing players to fight for the puck at every chance, it would end up costing them.
No player on that team wants to be one of the nine players sitting every night. They showed that with a little too much exuberance against the Patriotes.
What would normally be physical, chippy hockey crossed the line into heavy penalty territory. The team took a collection of unnecessary calls early on, and despite the strong play of goalie Marc-Antoine Turcotte,—who was only responsible for three of the five goals as he was briefly replaced by his backup due to an equipment issue—suffered as a result.
They found themselves down to start the second period due to two power-play goals from the visitors, and just generally had any rhythm they built broken by consistent whistles.Élement understands what happened and has already addressed it with his players. For him it’s not an uncommon problem with a young, hungry team this early.
“When you want to play tough, on an edge, you might [slash a player] and stuff like that,” said Élement. “I told them we’re not looking for that. We’re looking for guys that are gonna use their shoulders, play between the whistles.”
There were definitely positives to take from the game. Leaders like Carl Neill and Philippe Sanche looked strong through the whole game and drove the play. Rookies showed flashes of the talent that the team scouted. And despite it hurting them during the game, the Stingers know the competitive, “prove it” attitude will be helpful in the long run.
“I think it’s a really healthy environment. Everyone is really competing hard in practice and it really makes everyone push themselves to be at the top of their game,” said second-year forward Jake Fletcher. “Even the better players are getting pushed […] It’s really good competition all around.”
The word players and coaches alike keep using is competitive. They enjoy competing with each other and making each other better.
One group that definitely has a lot to prove is the defence. Of the six defencemen that played this game, none had more than one year of U Sports experience besides Neill. Even counting the players sitting out of the game, it only brings the number of players with more experience than that up to three.
There’s also injury concern for some defencemen. Both Alexandre Gosselin and Mathieu Desautels sat out of the game.
Some bright spots for the group showed themselves in strong play by rookie blueliners Pascal Corbeil and Gabriel Bilodeau. The two played together and bring a strong background of major junior experience to the team.
“I like it. I think I’m adjusting well. It’s a bit faster, bigger guys but I feel like I’m doing well right now,” said Bilodeau of his start in U Sports.
With a handful of decisions to make, the coaches are waiting until the next pair of preseason games against the Ryerson Rams are decided before finalizing their lineup for the first few games of the season. Until then, it’s learning, observing, and competition time for the Stingers.