49 Sports picks 2023 U CUP all-stars

The UNB Reds and Alberta Golden Bears will play for U SPORTS gold tonight. But before the U SPORTS U CUP Men’s Hockey Championship wraps up, let’s take a look at the best individual performances from the past week.

U SPORTS picks an all-star team comprised of the tournament’s best performers following the gold medal game. Most of the players are from teams that made the final, with a spot or two often given to players from the bronze medal-winning team. An MVP will also be determined from that crop — an honour that usually depends on the outcome of the final.

Some picks were shoo-ins while others were super close. 49 Sports correctly picked three of the six all-stars last year. Who’s in this time?


Eric Florchuk (Alberta) – Just like last year in Wolfville, the Alberta star is saving his best for when it counts the most. He’s putting up fantastic numbers with two goals and five points in the tournament’s first two games. But most of all, he’s a tone-setter. The Golden Bears had three power-play goals in the first period against the Windsor Lancers on Friday, with Florchuk picking up points on all of them. He came out again strong in the semifinal against the UPEI Panthers, dodging a check and feeding teammate Matt Fonteyne for the all-important opening goal. He’s the catalyst of the tournament’s most dangerous offence.

He doesn’t dominate the scoring race typically in Canad West play. He had 28 points in as many games this season — a very good number but not up with the Riley Sawchucks or Nolan Yaremkos of the conference. But a switch flips for him when it comes to U CUPs. Last year, he put up four points at Acadia as a rookie, a number he’s already surpassed here in Charlottetown. His biggest challenge lies ahead as he will look for a way to solve the airtight UNB Reds’ defence in the gold medal game. 

Tyler Preziuso (Alberta) –  The second-year Golden Bears forward pretty much locked up an all-star honour five minutes into the quarterfinal versus Windsor. It took him all of four minutes and 18 seconds to collect four points — first a pair of assists, then two power-play goals on Lancers star goaltender Nathan Torchia. He finished his hat trick later in the game while adding an important insurance marker in the UPEI semifinal.

After a solid rookie season where he played lower in the lineup, coach Ian Herbers gave Preziuso a promotion up the lineup as stars Noah Philip and Grayson Pawlenchuk left. He took full advantage, potting 16 goals and 30 points in 28 Canada West regular season games. He added three more points in the playoffs — a number he surpassed in Friday’s first period alone. Alongside Florchuk on Alberta’s top line and power play, Preziuso makes the most of the prime scoring chances he gets, which will be a handful for UNB.

Jason Willms (UNB) – It’s hard to pick any one UNB forward. The likes of Cody Morgan, Isaac Nurse and Simon Pinard are having top-notch tournaments and are worthy of all-star consideration. But my pick will be the Reds captain given his significance in getting UNB to the gold medal game. He set up Cody Morgan for the all-important first goal of their 2-1 win over Concordia in the semifinals. His affinity for kickstarting his team carried into the UQTR game, scoring in the game’s first minute — setting the tone for the rest of the game in the Reds’ favour.

Willms — like most of his team — was on that UNB squad ousted early from last year’s U CUP. He was tasked with the rest of the UNB leadership core to bring one of the country’s most decorated programs back to the promised land. He played a big part in getting them not only to the tournament but to a desirable ranking, scoring nine points (second in AUS playoff scoring behind Pinard) en route to UNB’s fifth straight conference championship. Willms plays his best when something is on the line — making him perfect for leading the Reds program that prides itself on doing that. 


Ross MacDougall (UNB) – Nearly three years after transferring to UNB from the Acadia Axemen, New Brunswick native MacDougall is right where he imagined being someday with the Reds: a national final. And he’s been a key piece in getting the team there. MacDougall is UNB’s workhorse on the blue line, picking up big minutes in each of their U CUP games so far. With injury woes on the Reds’ blueline, his play has been extra crucial. He was rewarded for his play Saturday against UQTR, picking up three assists in a 6-3 win. 

MacDougall has been a premier defensive talent in the AUS for a long time, dating back to his 2018 conference debut with Acadia. But 2022-23 has become a breakout year of sorts for the senior. His 28 regular season points — which led all AUS defencemen — smashed his career-high of 15 set in 2019-20. He kept it up through the AUS playoffs with four points in seven games. He had an injury scare after taking a bad hit in game one of the AUS final. But that clearly hasn’t shaken him up. 

Justin Bergeron (UQTR) –  There’s not much that Bergeron didn’t do for the 2022 U CUP champions. Although the Patriotes didn’t repeat as national champs, the defenceman did everything in his power to do that, eventually helping his team to salvage a bronze medal. The best offensive defenceman in the tournament, he leads the tournament in blueline scoring following the bronze-medal game. After a pair of assists in the tournament opener against SMU, he contributed to every UQTR goal against UNB, even scoring one himself in the 6-3 loss (his first of the season, believe it or not). 

His name may sound familiar to you from last year’s tournament. As a rookie, he helped lead a strong Patriotes blueline on the team’s march to national glory and was an arguable tournament all-star. This season, he led everyone in the OUA with 25 assists, adding six more in the Queen’s Cup playoffs. Backed by another strong U CUP performance, he’ll continue to be the epitome of OUA talent for seasons to come.


Samuel Richard (SMU Huskies)

Samuel Richard (UNB) – I took most of Sunday to think about my pick in this category and obviously, it will be dependent on a) whether Ethan Kruger is healthy Sunday and b) who wins the gold medal game. But although he hasn’t had the perfect statistical tournament like Kruger, Richard makes more sense to me as the goalie of the tournament. It’s not really how many shots he’s stopped but how he’s stopped them. He hasn’t been terribly busy, facing just 33 shots this tournament pre-gold medal. 

What catches my eye is the fact UNB has allowed the most shots in the third periods of the games they’ve played. As the other team has pushed late, especially in the UQTR semifinal, Richard has been central in sucking life out of comeback hopes. While Kruger has stopped everything he’s faced (literally everything — he’s yet to allow a goal in the U CUP), he hasn’t had his back against the wall this tournament in close games the same as Richard.

Recently named U SPORTS rookie of the year, Richard dominated the AUS with 18 wins and a .933 save percentage in 22 appearances. His playoffs were up-and-down but he saved his best for last — a 20-save performance in game three versus SMU in the final. I’d expect Alberta to shoot more on Richard in the final. But he’s up for the task.

COVER: Alberta Golden Bears

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