Another UNB Varsity Reds seasons is here, and with it comes another season of storylines. Here’s a look at some of the bigger sports storylines heading into the 2014-15 season.
Women’s hockey legal battle: UNB hasn’t had a varsity women’s hockey team since the 2007-08 season. In 2008, the school downgraded the team — along with several others — to club status. The story made national news and it looks as though it could be making national news again. In 2009, Sylvia Bryson, a member of the team at the time, filed a complaint alleging that the decision to downgrade the women’s team constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex. This summer, UNB attempted to have the complaint thrown out but the province’s Labour and Employment Board ruled in favour of Bryson. According to media reports, hearings are expected to resume this fall.
Men’s hockey title pattern: The men’s hockey team has been a perennial powerhouse in Canadian Interuniversity Sport since winning its second national title in 2007. Since that ’07 win at the Moncton Coliseum, UNB has gone on to win University Cup championships in 2009, 2011 and 2013. The 2014-15 season is about to begin, and the pattern would seem to indicate that UNB is due.
Men’s hockey roster shuffle: While the pattern indicates that UNB should be one of the nation’s top teams this season, the squad has undergone a fairly large roster overhaul this off-season. A number of key veterans have graduated, turned professional or transferred to other schools. While the Reds have brought in plenty of quality recruits as always, there are certainly a lot of questions marks surrounding how this team will perform this year. If anything, game day programs will be well used at the Aitken Centre.
Men’s soccer goes for a repeat: The team has finished first in the AUS regular season in each of the past two seasons and made it to the conference final both times. Last season, Miles Pinsent’s squad won the school’s first AUS title since 2006 and finished third at CIS Nationals that were played on home turf. They’ll be looking to repeat as AUS champions this fall.
Women’s soccer, basketball push for playoffs: the women’s soccer team finished seventh in the AUS last season with a 4-7-2 record, missing the playoffs by five points. The women’s basketball team also finished seventh with a 5-15 record, missing the post-season by 12 points. Can either or both make the jump and get into the playoffs this year?
Men’s basketball looking to improve on success: the team made a resurgence last season, finishing fifth in the AUS regular season with a .500 record (the first since 2003-04) of 10-10. The team qualified for the playoffs but were eliminated by a heartbreaking 89-88 quarter-final loss to StFX. The team, led by last season’s rookie sensation Javon Masters, will look to build off the success they had moving forward.
Can Masters repeat his rookie season: there’s not much Javon Masters didn’t accomplish in his rookie season. He won the Dr. Peter Mullins Trophy as CIS men’s basketball rookie of the year. He recorded a CIS best 27.4 points per game. Among other impressive statistical achievements, he topped the AUS in three-point shooting percentage (42.4) and finished second in free-throw accuracy (88.8 per cent). The Kitchener native also earned a spot on the first AUS all-star team and second CIS all-star team. It was an impressive season to say the least — and now he’ll be looking to repeat it in his sophomore campaign.
UNB coaches in the NHL: it was an unprecedented summer for former UNB hockey coaches. Former Reds hockey coaches Mike Johnston, head coach, Pittsburgh Penguins; Gary Agnew, assistant coach, Pittsburgh Penguins; Andrew Brewer, assistant coach, Detroit Red Wings; Tom Coolen, assistant coach, Buffalo Sabres; and Mike Kelly, assistant coach, Florida Panthers will all be working in the NHL this coming season. It’ll be interesting to see how they all perform, particularly Johnston and Agnew who will look to get the Penguins back on track.
Will the “battle” of the hill return: Everyone has heard the stories of the epic battles that were once played between UNB’s and St. Thomas’ men’s hockey teams. The last several years have featured more blowouts in UNB’s favour than close contests. But the Tommies picked up their first win over the Reds since 2006 last season and have also had a couple of good recruiting classes. The rivalry may not reach the levels it had a decade or so ago, but there is a good chance it could heat up.