The last quarterfinal matchup will take place tonight between top-ranked Concordia and bottom-ranked hosts UPEI. The game is a mismatch between the most dominant force in U Sports hockey and a team knocked out in the AUS quarterfinals. Stats and numbers aside, this tournament is single-game elimination making huge upsets possible with just a couple of lucky bounces.
The Concordia Stingers play like their mascot implies – fast and swift. They lead all of U Sports with 4.40 goals per game, running up the score on other RSEQ opponents. The Stingers ended their regular season with ten straight wins, followed by a perfect playoff in which they swept the Montreal Carabins and McGill Martlets. Their high-flying offence scored twelve goals in their four RSEQ playoff games and only allowed two. They got hot when it mattered most and came into the tournament with that momentum. The Stingers have a young team with many critical pieces set to return next year. Expect players like Émilie Lavoie to impact this tournament significantly and many to come.
The UPEI Panthers qualified for the tournament as hosts. The Panthers were a competitive team in the AUS this year with a .591 record, good enough for fourth place, but unfortunately for them, they lost in the first round of the AUS playoffs. UPEI’s numbers are underwhelming both on offence and defence, with an average of 2.36 goals for and 2.20 against per game. Those numbers are worryingly close, especially for a team facing Concordia.
The Panthers are led by forward Jolena Gillard, a fourth-year playing her third season. In 22 games this year, she had 14 goals to lead the conference. Individual performances will be critical from players like her in a game where everything will need to go right for UPEI.
UPEI needs to outwork the Stingers to have a chance. Their key to success will be beating Concordia in the foot races and battles along the boards. If the Panthers can keep the puck away from Concordia, they stand a chance to stave off the hungry Stingers. Undoubtedly, the hometown advantage will play a factor. UPEI will have more support and more to play for than anyone else. They could do something miraculous tonight with the right combination of motivation and hard work.
Harder. Faster. Stronger. Concordia will look to keep its foot on the gas and never look back. The Stingers are ruthless and never relent, even when they lead. Their key to success tonight will be to dominate every aspect of the game with no mercy for the weaker side. The Stingers won’t want to come into the match feeling superior. They will be looking to treat them like any other team and drive right through them to the next round. The Stingers are a team that wants to be the vest at everything, and we should expect that tonight.
The game begins at 7:00 pm local time. You can stream it live at cbcsports.ca.
Cover Photo: Janessa Hogan