Ottawa, ON – Talk to Stacey Colarossi for more than five minutes, and you are guaranteed to hear mention of the word process.
Since taking over as the head coach of the Carleton Women’s hockey program back in June, a program that has not made the playoffs in the six-team RSEQ since 2014 and has not had a winning season since 2012, the coach has made clear her goal from day one of turning the Ravens into a sustainable contender. That has meant stripping the focus away from winning on the scoresheet to, as Colarossi terms it, the “process” and “the smaller victories” in how the Ravens play across 60 minutes.
On Sunday, though, at least for one afternoon, the process got an early reward as with the #1-ranked Concordia Stingers in town, the Ravens finally saw it all come together.
Timely scoring, some of their most vigorous defence of the season – for at least 55 minutes – and a steady performance from Frédéricke Lavoie-Leroux in net, all of it led to a 4-3 win for the Ravens that upset the top-ranked U SPORTS team in the country.
It also showed that although it takes more than one good performance to build a contender, as Colarossi put it herself post-game.
“They are believing they can do it now.”
The Ravens already entered the Ice House on Sunday on a high, thanks to their 4-2 win on Friday night over a McGill Martlets side that’s off to a stunningly poor 0-6-0 start. That gave the Ravens their first win of the year after four straight losses but with the defending national champions squaring off against them, the nerves were still justifiably there.
“Definitely some nervous energy before the game,” Ravens coach Stacey Colarossi said. “We never spoke about wins and losses, just about what we need to take care of in our process.”
Coming off a 3-2 OT win over the Ottawa Gee-Gees on Friday night themselves that pushed their record to 4-1-0, the Stingers perhaps entered the Ice House a little cocky, demolishing Carleton 8-1, 9-0 and 7-1 in their three meeting a year ago.
Whatever their mindset, the Stingers were clearly caught flat-footed as the Raven forecheck pressured them before seven minutes in, a Lainie Guimond point shot was kick saved by Jordyn Verbeek but right onto the stick of Sydney Berta to make it 1-0 for the Ravens.
The score held at 1-0 Carleton after the first period as the Stingers fired just eight shots on Frédéricke Lavoie-Leroux as the
Realizing the effect of, and by extension learning the value of sustained zone time is just another part of “the process” for Colarossi.
I think they’ve started to see the small successes in regards to having sustained zone time or just hemming teams in, so they’re starting to believe it can actually work,” Colarossi said.
“We know we have to slow teams down; we can’t try to match them skill for skill, we’re a workboot kind of team, and we’ve just got to make them play in small space.”
Into the second, a cross-checking penalty gave the Ravens the powerplay on which a scramble in front saw Lainie Guimond find the loose puck and bury it to make it 2-0 for Carleton.
The Raven powerplay only saw action twice on Sunday but it moved with much clearer fluidity thanks to the quarterbacking by defender Rhys Cole-Ashbury.
“There was a lot of communication which is something we’ve definitely been working on, and it really helps when you have everyone around you talking and telling you what’s going on,” Cole-Ashbury said.
A late goal from Rosalie Begin-Cyr cut the lead to 2-1 heading into the third period, but for the Ravens, the opportunity to shock most of RSEQ stood there for the taking.
When Rhys Cole-Ashbury tapped in her own goal early in the third to make it 3-1, they started to believe; when Hayden Serniuck added another with five minutes to go to make it 4-1 they could see it in their sights.
Yet, what the process also entails, is not just learning how to build leaded but also how to close out wins and the Ravens got a taste of that on Sunday. A pair of goals sixteen seconds apart from Emmy Fecteau turned a 4-1 Raven lead with 5:33 to play, to a 4-3 game with a long 3:51 remaining on the clock.
“We started playing a more containment style and that’s not going to get it done.” Colarossi said.
The Stingers ultimately peppered 16 shots on Lavoie-Leroux in the third, part of 34 on the game, but they could not find that fourth goal.
When the buzzer sounded, Lavoie-Leroux took two strides, let out a yell of relief and then got met with a team of Ravens for a celebratory winning dogpile, it wasn’t perfect but they had pulled it off.
Perhaps the best way to look at the Ravens after Sunday came from their dressing room. Below the stands of the Ice House, amid the cheers from the Ravens dressing room the sound of Eumir Deodato’s “Celebration” echoed down the corridor and that might best describe the Ravens.
One win in November is not the end goal and ultimately won’t make or break the season, but when “the small victories” that the Ravens have focused on for weeks all come together, then what better thing to do, at least for one day than too
“Celebrate good times, come on.”