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Hockey Notebook: Former V-Reds coaches moving on up

To say it has been an eventful off-season for former UNB men’s hockey coaches would be an understatement.

A number of former Varsity Reds coaches made the jump to the National Hockey League (NHL) this off-season. The latest was Andrew Brewer who was named a Detroit Red Wings assistant coach on Wednesday. Brewer worked with UNB from 2009-11 as video coach before joining Hockey Canada where he performed the same role. His duties with Team Canada included working with Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

In June, Mike Johnston was named the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Johnston acted as UNB bench boss for five seasons from 1989-94, compiling a 75-43-7 conference record and a 12-11 playoff record. The Dartmouth native has worked in the NHL previously as an assistant coach. For the past several years Johnston has been working with the Western Hockey League’s very successful Portland Winterhawks.

Johnston and the Penguins hired Gary Agnew, who also has roots at UNB, as an assistant coach in July. Agnew played four seasons at the school from 1978-82 and acted as an assistant coach from 1985-87.

Lastly, the Florida Panthers hired Mike Kelly as an assistant coach. Kelly played five seasons at UNB from 1981-86 and acted as head coach from 1996-98. Under Kelly, the Varsity Reds won the University Cup in 1998 and were runner up in 1997.

Meanwhile, current head coach Gardiner MacDougall is sticking around campus. MacDougall, who just completed his 14th season as head coach, signed a five-year contract extension with UNB in June.

The team has also added former Reds player Rob Hennigar as an associate coach and hockey camp coordinator. Hennigar replaces Todd Sparks who stepped down from the position in April.

Nesbitt Turning Pro

The East Coast Hockey League’s Elmira Jackals announced a couple weeks ago the signing of V-Reds forward Thomas Nesbitt.

The 24-year-old has spent the last three seasons with UNB, recording 27 goals and 33 assists in 83 career games. Last season he registered 10 goals and 10 assists in 28 contests.

“I am excited to join the Elmira Jackals organization,” Nesbitt said in a release posted on the team’s website. “I have heard nothing but good things about the city of Elmira and I am excited to be apart of the new culture. I look forward to building towards a championship with this group.”

The Jackals are affiliated with the Buffalo Sabres.

Fullerton Joins Jackals

There will be at least one familiar face joining Nesbitt in Elmira this fall as the Jackals announced on Tuesday the signing of former UNB goaltender Travis Fullerton.

Fullerton played five seasons with the Reds from 2008-13, winning three University Cup titles with the team. He spent last season with the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers.

“I couldn’t be more happy to be joining the Jackals for the upcoming season,” said Fullerton. “I am excited to meet my teammates and enjoy a great season in Elmira.”

Jackals head coach Jamie Russell said he expects the 26-year-old Fullerton to compete for the team’s starting job.

Reds Heading South in October

While UNB’s exhibition schedule has not yet been released, it does appear the squad will be making a trip south of the border again this year. The University of Maine’s athletics website shows the Black Bears hosting the Varsity Reds on Sunday, Oct. 5 in Orono, ME.

The Reds visited the Bears in January last season and blew a 3-0 first period lead in a 4-3 overtime loss.

UNB’s regular season begins on Saturday, Oct. 11 at the University of Prince Edward Island. Their home opener is Friday, Oct. 17 against Dalhousie. 

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