With an 8-2-2 record and a conference-leading 50 goals, the UNB Varsity Reds men’s hockey team’s first half success can be attributed in no small part to its solid defensive line.
With a combined 29 points in 12 games, defencemen Randy Gazzola and Jordan Murray have contributed heavily to the team’s early success.
With five goals and 10 assists, Murray currently sits in a tie for sixth in AUS scoring, while Gazzola is close behind with a goal and 13 assists, good for eighth in the league.
While Gazzola has been drawing praise in his first season with the Varsity Reds, he is quick to give credit to the team’s forwards.
“Our team is loaded with good-quality forwards,” he said. “Every time you’re on the ice there’s a chance that if you make the right pass, they will capitalize on the opportunity and score.
“The quality of our team is so deep. Everybody’s a tremendous player who can put the puck in the net on any given night.”
It was this reputation for success that drew Gazzola to UNB in the first place, following an illustrious career in the QMJHL. Gazzola played one season with the Halifax Mooseheads before being traded to the Val d’Or Foreurs where he was a member of the President’s Cup winning team in 2014.
“I had heard a lot of good things about UNB and their winning traditions. A few of my old friends had played here before, and after talking with the coach I knew it was going to be a good fit for my development.”
For Murray, a Riverview native, UNB was the clear choice when looking at universities.
“After following the team’s success for so long, it was an easy decision to come here,” he said.
Following a three-year career in the QMJHL with the Acadie-Bathurst Titans and Drummondville Voltigeurs, Murray had a breakout rookie season at UNB last year and was named to the AUS second all-star team and all-rookie team.
Both players credited the team’s chemistry, both on and off the ice, as a key reason for their early success.
“The team is really close. We have a lot of young guys in their first and second years with the team, so we’re all pretty much the same age and get along really well. It’s a great atmosphere in the locker room,” said Murray.
Despite their personal success so far, the pair are focused solely on one team goal — namely, winning the national championship.
“The team goal at UNB is, obviously, always to win another championship. We want to be on top of the standings all season long and hopefully have a good playoff run,” said Gazzola.
Gazzola, Murray and the Varsity Reds return to action this weekend in Nova Scotia with games at Saint Mary’s and StFX. The team plays their final home game of the first half on Nov. 28 against the Université de Moncton.