There will be a lot of talk about the Concordia Stingers going into the 2023 U Sports women's hockey nationals at Université de Montréal this weekend as the defending champions but make no mistake about it, this is a different team with a different team culture.
Twelve players graduated or moved on and there are six rookies on the current roster. Head coach Julie Chu and her players had to be patient and take their time to figure out exactly what the 2022-23 Stingers were going to look like.
“The big thing is that we were starting without a lot of key players, including captains, all-stars and all-Canadians,” said Chu whose team faces the Nipissing Lakers in the quarter-finals on Friday at 7 p.m. “In the fall we were focused on creating our own identity and there were big roles to fill.
“I’m really proud of how patient the players were and how they really trusted the process. We had to go back to step one and fundamentals. We worked on our overall systems, how we play defence, what our forecheck looks like and how we are connected in team play.”
There were growing pains, but Chu says the players stayed patient and above all they worked hard. This is an intensely driven group that likes to battle.
Concordia did not rest in its laurels, and it paid off. The Stingers finished first in the RSEQ with a 20-4-1 record. They also scored the most goals (90) and allowed the least goals (39) in the conference.
In the Quebec semifinals, the Stingers eliminated the Bishop’s Gaiters in two straight games, outscoring them 10-2. In the finals, it took three intense games to beat the Montréal Carabins and claim their second consecutive RSEQ title. Concordia won the third-and-deciding game 4-1 on home ice on March 5.
The 2022-23 Stingers spent four weeks out of 15 as the No. 1-ranked team in U Sports. They did not drop below the No. 3 spot all season long.
The Stingers go into nationals as the No. 3 seed and will meet the No. 6-ranked Lakers in the quarter-finals on Friday at 7 p.m. at Université de Montréal’s CEPSUM arena.
Nipissing finished second in the six-team OUA East conference with a 19-4-3 record. In playoffs, the Lakers eliminated the Queen’s Gaels in the quarter-finals and the Waterloo Warriors in the semifinals. They suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to the Toronto Varsity Blues in the OUA championship game last Saturday. Nipissing led 1-0 with 3:43 left to play when they gave up a shorthanded goal and then surrendered the game-winner with 28 seconds left in regulation time.
Last March, Concordia and Nipissing met in the U Sports gold medal game and the Stingers won 4-0
Purchase tickets for nationals HERE