For Cam Braes, the opportunity to continue his hockey career at the University of New Brunswick was a dream come true.
“Following my junior hockey career, I wanted to get a university degree but also continue to play at the highest level possible. UNB’s winning tradition enticed me to move across the country and begin my university career in Fredericton,” said the former Western Hockey League forward.
In his third season with the UNB Varsity Reds, Braes recorded seven goals and 24 points during the regular season, placing him third in team scoring. He also tied a CIS record for most goals in a national championship game by netting four against the Windsor Lancers in the University Cup quarterfinals.
Despite his individual success, the Shawinigan Lake, B.C. native is quick to point out the team’s accomplishments throughout the 2014-15 season.
“Some of our highlights for the year were winning the AUS regular season title, winning the AUS playoff title and making it to the national finals. We were able to overcome many challenges, including losing two straight games to StFX during the AUS semifinals, and then responding to win game five at home.”
In terms of his own play, Braes prides himself on being a player who can pull through when times are tough.
“I felt my regular season had its ups and downs, and the playoffs allowed for a clean slate. I was fortunate enough to win a national championship with UNB in my first year and wanted some of my younger teammates to experience the same feeling. Our team was disappointed by the results last year and as a veteran on the team, I tried to lead by example during the playoffs and at nationals.”
Braes explained that his mindset throughout the CIS tournament was to focus on one game at a time.
“With the new tournament format, you can’t look past any opponent, and I felt we did a great job in the quarters and semi-finals. As the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds going into the tournament, I think the UNB-Alberta matchup was what the CIS was looking forward to seeing in the finals,” said Braes. “I grew up on the west coast and had played against the entire Alberta roster, so I knew the talent we were facing.
“Obviously the final game did not go as planned and it will take a while to get over. However, I am very proud of how far our team has come since training camp last fall.”
Despite the heartbreaking loss, Braes believes that the returning members can learn from this experience in the coming season.
“I feel the team can use the heartbreak in the national final as motivation moving forward. The future is always promising for the UNB hockey program. The team has a young talented nucleus and coach [Gardiner MacDougall] always seems to bring in impact rookies in every recruiting class.”
Overall, Braes describes his experience at UNB as “fantastic.”
“I have met and played with so many great people that have made the last three years unbelievable,” he said. “Winning a national championship is something that I will never forget, and I am extremely grateful to have been a part of UNB hockey’s history.”