The Varsity Reds Men’s hockey team completed their season this weekend when they hosted Nationals in a packed Aitken Centre.
The quarter finals saw them up against the Queen’s University Gaels. The Gaels, who were ranked 4th going into the tournament, were defeated 5-1 by the Varsity Reds.
Although Queen’s did get on the board first, in the first 2 minutes of the game, the match up saw the Variety Reds eager to get the opportunity to maintain their national champions title, and they outshot the Gaels 40-15.
Philippe Maillet, who was named the USPORTS player of the year, scored 3 of the 5 goals for the UNB side, with Chris Clapperton and Philippe Halley adding their own goals to the scoreboard.
The defeat of Queen’s allowed the UNB Varsity Reds to advance to the semi finals, where they faced the Acadia Axemen. The 8th-ranked Acadia side caused an upset early in their tournament when they beat the number 1 ranked team going into the tournament: the University of Alberta.
The semi-finals game played in front of boisterous fans for both teams and saw both Atlantic teams fight hard for the win. In the end, the Varsity Reds came out victorious, beating the Axemen 3-0. Chris Caissy got UNB the 1st goal of the game in the first 4 minutes of the game.
Despite the early goal from UNB, the Acadia side were undeterred and pressed hard all game, even as UNB’s defensemen of the year Jordan Murray and Clapperton both got goals of their own. In the end, goaltender Etienne Marcoux kept Acadia’s efforts at bay and the game ended 3-0. UNB advanced to the gold medal game against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, and Acadia took bronze when they defeated Atlantic Champions StFx 7-3 the next day.
The gold-medal game was one of great anticipation and excitement, and the Aitken Centre was full to capacity with people taking to seat in the aisles to watch the game. “Winning on home ice in my first year was an incredible experience. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my first year here at UNB,” said rookie defenseman Matt Murphy. The Fredericton native conceded that playing at home was not without its added challenges: “There may have been a little added pressure just since I’m from Fredericton and had a lot of family and friends watching, but I think overall I just tried to not think about that and just played in the moment.”
The Varsity Reds didn’t disappoint and came out strong from the puck drop, with veteran Cam Braes getting the 1st goal within minutes of the game beginning, in what would be the 1st of 4 that afternoon. Saskatchewan rallied hard, but their efforts were not enough for the defending national champions, and UNB took the game 5-3, becoming back-to-back national champions and earning their 7th national win for the programme.
For first-year and all-star rookie team defenseman Matt Murphy, the season and the win had been everything he had been expecting and more. “I think that they do an unbelievable job with the program here. Our entire staff puts so much time and effort into making the program the best as they can. It has definitely exceeded my expectations and being a part of this team was so fun.”