U Sports wins could be boost for Colarossi, Voyageurs

The Summer Showcase was no mere holiday for Stacey Colarossi.

The Laurentian Voyageurs’ head coach certainly enjoyed last week’s trip to Calgary, where she guided the U Sports All-Stars for a second straight year in a series games against the Canadian and Japanese national teams, but she didn’t take lightly the opportunity that the tournament represented, both for herself and her program.

Determined to build on a win over the Hockey Canada representatives in 2017, Colarossi and Co. dropped their first game of this year’s tournament, 3-2 to Japan, but bounced back for a 3-1 victory over Team James, one of two split squads from the Canadian women’s development program, then another 3-1 win over Team Heaney, the other Hockey Canada entry.

The All-Stars wrapped up the event with a 6-3 win over Japan.

“It was a great experience for all the girls and a lot of fun for us as a staff, obviously,” Colarossi said. “You don’t beat the Canadian development team and not enjoy that moment. It was a really good squad and it was a lot fun.”

Stacey Colarossi

While the opening-night loss was disappointing at the time – U Sports outshot Japan 44-23, but could beat its goaltenders only twice – it may have been a turning point for the team.

“We had to be more of a high-pressure team last year, because we didn’t have the same skill set,” Colarossi said. “I don’t want to discredit the team from last year, because they had great success, but we just had a bit of a different skill set and a lot of speed, so we tweaked our D zone a fair amount to capitalize on a high man and hybrid icing and in our first game, we actually scored two goals in our D zone transition. Once we did that, they really started to believe in the D zone and the structure, that it was going to provide opportunities to them, and I think that sealed the deal.

“Losing to Japan first, I said to our staff that if we won that game, we likely wouldn’t have won those two games against the Canadian teams. It just kind of reinforced what we were trying to sell, because they hadn’t executed quite the way we were looking for in Game 1 and when they did execute well in Game 2, we had success and they started really buying into the plan.”

It seems players elsewhere are interested in what Colarossi is selling, too. While she prepares to welcome new and returning players for the start of training camp at the end of the moth, she’s also noticing a new wave of interest from those who have heard of her exploits in Alberta.

“The recruiting piece was also super important, since we have had some success out there,” she said. “I have been getting calls from players, saying, ‘I saw that you were the coach for the U Sports All-Star team,’ interested in Laurentian, so we really want to capitalize on that interest to improve on the level of athlete we get coming to Laurentian, so for me right now, it’s taking care of the first years coming in and also using this success as an opportunity for our future recruits.”

Colarossi would welcome the chance to coach on the international stage again, whether at the showcase or at a higher-profile event.

“Certainly, I would definitely go back,” she said. “I also have bigger dreams of wanting to compete in international hockey, as well, so for me, it’s all about learning experiences and as long as I’m going to grow, I really don’t care what team I’m working with. I just want to know the support staff I have can bring something to the table, which they have both years, and you’re learning things from your coaches, learning things from your team doctors and therapists, mental skills, et cetera, and as long as I can always bring something back to Laurentian, the program that is my career, I’ll always be involved in some capacity.”

The Voyageurs host their pre-season golf tournament on Aug. 29-30, then begin tryouts and fitness testing Sept. 1.

The Laurentian women open the regular season a visit to Queen’s on Oct. 12. Their home opener is Oct. 20 against the Ryerson Rams.

Twitter: @ben_leeson

Laurentian University women’s hockey coach Stacey Colarossi, left, leads a practice at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex in Sudbury in this file photo. John Lappa/The Sudbury Star/Postmedia Network

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