Montreal Gazette

Stingers back on top in U Sports women's hockey

Concordia completes mission to avenge loss in last season's championsh­ip game


Winning championsh­ips never gets old.

But an agonizing defeat one year earlier might have helped motivate the Concordia Stingers' women's hockey team to their second U Sports national title in three years.

“We were on a mission this year,” forward Jessymaude Drapeau told the Montreal Gazette by telephone this week, not long after the Stingers defeated the Toronto Varsity Blues 3-1, capturing the Golden Path trophy Sunday at the University of Saskatchew­an.

“We wanted that championsh­ip,” added Drapeau, who scored the winning goal and was named the tournament's most valuable player. “When you win it the first time you want it more. The ending last year brought us in a place. We wanted revenge. We wanted to win.”

The path to this title took root last season, when the Stingers lost in overtime to the Mount Royal Cougars in the championsh­ip game. Concordia went 25-0 in the RSEQ regular-season, scoring a league-leading 107 goals while allowing only 29. The Stingers then defeated the University of Ottawa and Université de Montréal in the playoffs for their third straight conference title.

“While it was important for us this season not to focus on what happened in the past, we can't lie,” head coach Julie Chu said. “Last year it hurt to lose in the finals, the way we lost. For a lot of (the players) there was a lot of healing that had to go on.”

While the returning players buried the past, according to Chu, they also ensured the rookies pulled together, buying into the team-first culture Chu and associate head coach Caroline Ouellette preach.

“I think that helped us to start off and build our foundation from training camp through to the end of the season,” Chu said. “We returned a lot of tremendous players. This was one of the deepest teams we've had. There were so many layers we were able to rely on that helped us defensivel­y be responsibl­e. Also offensivel­y to put points on the board. We had more than one or two lines to generate offence. That made the team difficult to defend against and allowed consistenc­y in the play from one shift to the next.”

The Stingers defeated host Saskatchew­an 4-0 in the national quarterfin­al. While goaltender Jordyn Verbeek stopped 26 shots for the shutout, Chu said she made at least three critical saves in the first period, weathering the storm and silencing the crowd. Concordia took a 1-0 lead to the intermissi­on.

“Saskatchew­an came out fast and came out hard,” Chu said. “They buzzed us a bit in the first period and Jordyn made some big saves that we really needed. That was the game-changer in our championsh­ip success. That could have turned the tide. That rink was buzzing. It could have exploded and they ride some momentum from a goal. We settled down after the first period.”

The Stingers defeated Waterloo 3-1 in the semifinal, where Verbeek came within 47 seconds of her second tournament shutout. Verbeek was one of three Concordia players, along with Drapeau and Léonie Philbert, named to the allstar team. Verbeek also was named the competitio­n's top goalie.

“It's an experience I'll never forget for the rest of my life,” Verbeek said. “I'm really happy I could do it with this team. I'm just happy with the team in front of me. They blocked so many shots and made my job easy. The goals against isn't just a testament to me, it's a testament to the team. We should be proud of what we did defensivel­y.”

Chu said there will be more excitement than pressure to try and repeat next season, the vision and goals coming together at training camp. She has no doubt the commitment will be there again.

“Yes, we want to chase championsh­ips,” Chu said. “But we say hockey is our avenue to be able to grow, learn and have those experience­s you'll remember.”

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