By Kris Smith
Stars forwards, Philippe Sanche, Quinn O’Brien, Connor Sills and defenseman, Michael Poirier were all robbed of the chance to finish off their senior years in the USports league in style, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, all four players have a shot at redemption this weekend and can kick-start their professional careers by winning the ultimate goal of every season, a playoff championship.
Poirier, Sills and O’Brien were all part of the University of Ottawa GeeGee’s team that had made it to the national finals, but on the day of their first game, COVID-19 forced the world into lockdown.
Former Star, Cody Drover was also on the GeeGee’s team that had eliminated Sanche’s Concordia Stingers during the playoffs, but that has not discouraged Philippe for looking for his own redemption and perusing another championship.
The former Stinger and ex-teammate of Stars icon, Anthony Beauregard, insisted that his past disappointment has only made him hungrier for success.
Sanche then added: “We are all super hungry, those were massive wins against Sheffield and it was a massive result,
“We are going there with a really good mindset and we have managed to play some good games against them this season and we know we can beat them.
“I think it all goes back to the confidence in our group and you saw it against Sheffield.
“We finished seventh and they finished second and we believed in ourselves and we will keep pushing on until the end.
“It is the best time of the year and we play so hard to get into the playoffs because that is our goal and now we are really hungry heading into the weekend.”
Forward, O’Brien joined the team mid-season, linking up with his old college teammates after starting the campaign with Glasgow Clan, but he is appreciating the chance to compete this year.
Quinn said: “Just being a part of getting to a championship is fun and we had that opportunity the last time we played together and to get back to a similar feeling has been fantastic, now obviously we are extremely hungry to go out and compete this time.”
The Canadian center then discussed how his move to Dundee has given him the opportunity for a perfect ending to his rookie season.
He added: “Absolutely, in some ways it is a blessing in disguise.
“I enjoyed a lot of things about my time in Glasgow but in another way, it was good to get out of there and get a fresh start and Dundee provided exactly what I needed.
“It has been fun since day one, walking into that dressing room and getting to know these guys and I am just so glad it keeps going.”
Towering forward, Sills then gave his take on how the abrupt end to his college career has fuelled his drive this season.
He said: “There is definitely some unfinished business from that season and it was emotional when it ended the way it did.
“So, to even have a second chance here and be able to make some great memories and make something special happen means a lot.
“We will definitely be fighting with a little bit extra to win it all.”
The Canadian who can play in any forward position then added: “Being an underdog is a little bit of a privilege and you do not have as much pressure on you and it is a great story when you come back.
“With Belfast, we have had a good run against them this year, taking six points off them.
“So, it will be a good match up and be even sweeter to take out the top dog.”
Finally, defenseman Poirier then shared his experience and mindset heading into the biggest weekend of the season.
Michael said: “Any season that you play hockey, your end goal is to win the playoffs and be the last ones standing.
“Obviously taking some experiences from the University of Ottawa and USports, they are all three-game series, so every game has that extra meaning behind it.
“Therefore, you cannot let one game slip away from you, compared to the NHL where it is seven-games.
“So, these one-game playoffs are massive, a one-off game against Belfast in the semi-finals just shows how every single shift extremely important.”
He continued: “We have played Belfast a bunch this season with the regular season and the Challenge Cup and we know we can beat them.
“We have played well against every team and being on neutral ice does not benefit anyone, so they maybe do not have an extra night’s sleep while we are on a travel day.
“We are both on even ground and in our position of being an underdog, we have nothing to lose and every to gain”