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Tigers speak on the successes in disappointing seasons

Dal hockey teams well represented in AUS awards despite losses

The Dalhousie University men’s and women’s hockey teams have seen their seasons come and go, each team facing adversity throughout the year.

The women’s team got off to a great start, with eight wins, six losses and three overtime losses (8-6-3) in their first 17 games. Over this period, they defeated the Saint Mary’s University Huskies and the University of New Brunswick Reds, who both ranked in the U Sports top 10 at the end of the season.

Brooklyn Paisley, a fifth-year Tiger, headed the offence, with seven multi-point games through the Tigers’ first 10 matchups.

“We had the same team as last year, the chemistry was there from the start,” said Olivia Eustace, one of Paisley’s linemates who was named to the AUS second team all-stars

“Brook and I have played all four years together,” said Eustace. “The dynamic is good.”

While the pair showed good chemistry right from the start, the season proved to be long and grueling. The Tigers lost four out of their first five games and ended the season with 13 wins, 14 losses and one shootout loss (13-14-1)

The Tigers entered the playoffs as the sixth and lowest seed. They played cross-town rival SMU, but despite hard skating, were swept when the Huskies allowed zero goals from the Tigers in two games.

Although the team’s playoff performance wasn’t optimal, Eustace managed to achieve great success on the Tigers. In her final year, Eustace finished with a career-high 25 points, leading the team in goals and points.

“I’ve made my younger self proud,” said Eustace. “It has been super rewarding to be recognized for [the] hard work [that I have] put in over the years. I am super grateful.”

Rookie success

Despite new strong additions this season, the men’s hockey team ended the season with seven wins, 21 losses and 2 overtime losses (7-21-2). They finished last in the AUS standings.

A highlight of this season was the outstanding performance of Alec Belanger, a first-year Tiger. Putting up 16 goals and seven assists on the season, Belanger was awarded Rookie of the Year  for the AUS and is a finalist for the U Sports version of the award.

Belanger credits his emergence as a star player to his off-season training.

“I had a big summer of change and found my groove,” said Belanger. “When I got to [training] camp, the coach trusted me.”

Belanger previously played in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) for the Ottawa 67’s and Kingston Frontenacs

“It’s a lot more physical,” said Belanger, about the difference between playing in the OHL and the AUS. “There’s more size, a lot of folks who did not want to go pro come and play [in U Sports].”

Originally drafted as a defenseman, Belanger has transitioned to the role of a two-way forward. He thinks his experience in both positions gives him an edge.

“I’ve been thrown into different roles, but here I have found a constancy.”

Next season, Belanger wants the Tigers to rise in the AUS standings. 

“There is no excuse for next year, we must be in the playoffs,” he said. “I’m excited for the summer, I’m going to show up to be a leader.” 

Off the ice

In his first year, Belanger has already proven to be a leader. He was given the AUS Community Service Award (Godfrey Award) for creating Extra Awesome Dalhousie. 

Extra Awesome is a student-run volunteer program that offers academic support and physical activities for Halifax youth with Down syndrome and their families. They run activity sessions on Sundays.

“What I‘ve loved most is seeing all those smiles on Sundays, not only from our participants but [also] all the Dalhousie students,” said Belanger. 

He hopes to continue and expand his work going into the summer and next season.

Both teams have nearly a dozen seniors leaving their squads. Training camp will start at the end of summer and the Tigers are hoping for a bounce-back year.

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