Halifax, NS – How many people didn’t have the almighty Reds penned into a U CUP berth in September?
The one who bet on this team most was head coach Gardiner MacDougall, who got some attention on Twitter for his rather stoic reaction to UNB’s first AUS banner since 2020.
It’s been a different year for the winners of four straight AUS titles and seven of the last 13 national championships. Similar to their U SPORTS counterparts, they were hit with the loss of key players over the COVID breaks. Five of their top six scorers from 2019-20, including Kris Bennett and Alexandre Goulet, had moved on. Their leading scorer from that season, Tyler Boland, started 2021-22 in Fredericton but left for pro over the holidays. This year, Nicolas Guay, the team’s leading scorer, did the same, signing with the AHL’s Abbotsford Canucks.
Since losing Boland and Guay the offence has fallen in the hands of youngster Austen Keating, a rookie of the year frontrunner. He put up 24 points to lead the team in scoring (besides the departed Guay’s 25). Captain and AUS playoff MVP Sam Dove-McFalls didn’t only lead active UNB players in goals with ten this year but saw his play ramp up later in the year. He scored eight points in nine second-half games for UNB, including playoff games. Brady Gilmour’s return from an early season injury and the addition of Ryan Roth have been adequate offensive reinforcements for the Reds in the stretch run.
As shown in their playoff run, where they won all games 2-1, UNB is a team that can win any type of game, low scoring or not. They have depth, with 13 players registering 10-plus points this season. Almost all of their defensemen, led by Ross MacDougall, Kade Landry and Adam McCormick, can thrive in any role. And if all else fails, they have veteran goaltender Rylan Parenteau between the pipes, coming off a memorable season statistics-wise. He became just the second AUS goalie in the last two decades to finish the season with a save percentage above .930, with .938. The other, Corbin Boes of the Dalhousie Tigers, had a .933 in 2017.
On Friday, the Reds begin their national title defence against the Ryerson Rams, the OUA’s third seed, in the early quarterfinal. UNB is favoured, but it won’t be a cakewalk against a Ryerson team that is playing in their first-ever University Cup tournament.
Photo: UNB Men’s Hockey