UNB looking to come home with the University Cup

UNB looking to come home with the University Cup

OTTAWA (CIS) – The University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds hope to bring home the University Cup later this week when the top CIS men’s hockey programs gather in Halifax for the first time in history.

Championship website: www.universitycup.ca

St. Francis Xavier University hosts the 2015 tournament at the Scotiabank Centre. The national competition, using a new eight-team format this year, gets underway on Thursday and culminates Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Atlantic Time (5:30 p.m. ET) with the gold-medal final, live on Sportsnet 360

Saturday’s semifinals are also live on Sportsnet 360 (noon & 4 p.m. Atlantic), while the quarter-finals and the bronze-medal match are set to air on Eastlink TV. All eight games from the tourney will be webcast on www.CIS-SIC.tv

The Varsity Reds, who won the AUS championship last week, will be joined in Nova Scotia’s capital by the first-seeded University of Alberta Golden Bears ( who won their record 14th University Cup title a year ago and successfully defended the Canada West banner over the weekend), No. 3 Guelph Gryphons (OUA champs), No. 4 UQTR Patriotes (OUA finalists), No. 5 Acadia Axemen (AUS finalists), No. 6 Calgary Dinos (Canada West finalists), No. 7 Windsor Lancers (OUA bronze medallists) and No. 8 StFX X-Men (AUS semi-finalists). 

The quarter-final matchups, split over two days, include Calgary vs. Guelph at 1 p.m. and Windsor vs. UNB at 7 p.m. on Thursday, as well as Acadia vs. UQTR at 1 p.m. and StFX vs. Alberta at 7 p.m. on Friday.

Alberta was a logical choice to earn the top seed for a third straight year as the reigning champions led all 20 weekly national polls this season, posted a CIS-best 24-3-1 mark in league play and added four straight wins in the Canada West playoffs, including a two-game sweep against Calgary in the conference final.

The U of A opens this week’s competition against the home team but facing the tourney hosts didn’t prove a problem a year ago in Saskatoon, when the Bears downed Saskatchewan 3-1 in the national final to put an end to a five-year championship drought. This season, the Bears ranked second in the nation in offence, defence and power play efficiency, thanks to the likes of Canada West MVP T.J. Foster (18-24-42) and top defenceman Jesse Craige (5-14-19 / +26). 

‘We’re not going to defend a title, we’re going to win a title,” said third-year head coach Ian Herbers. “We don’t have the same guys in the dressing room as last year, the teams at the tournament are different and the format has changed too, so we don’t approach this as defending last year, we approach it as trying to win this year.” 

For second-seeded UNB, it was another year, same result in the ultra-competitive Atlantic conference as the V-Reds took first place in the standings for the eighth consecutive campaign with a superb 22-4-2 record, before claiming the AUS banner thanks to a two-game sweep against archrival Acadia. UNB’s 32-8 overall record against CIS opposition this season includes a pair of wins over first-round opponent Windsor in early January at the Pete Kelly Tournament in Fredericton, 6-5 and 7-1.

“The AUS portion of our season has been very special. In a transition season with 14 new players on the roster, our goal was to find ways to continually improve our team’s performance through incremental player improvements,” said head coach Gardiner MacDougall, who has led the V-Reds to the University Cup title in all uneven years since 2007. “The parity and competitiveness of the AUS has certainly tested and improved our hockey team both physically and mentally. We look forward to the part of our team journey that brings us to CIS nationals and the new challenges from top opponents across the country.” 

To say third-ranked Guelph didn’t look like a championship team at the December break would be the understatement of the year. The Gryphons overcame a disastrous 3-13 start to their conference schedule to finish sixth in the OUA West with a modest 11-13-3 mark, and then embarked on a magical 7-2 playoff run that culminated with a 4-0 shutout against perennial powerhouse UQTR in the OUA final and the program’s for University Cup appearance since 2002.   

“We were thrilled to win the Queen’s Cup and to be able to do so in front of our fans was especially exciting,” said eight-year head coach Shawn Camp. “We are honoured to represent the OUA as conference champions and are excited for the opportunity to play against the best teams in the country.”

Despite the loss to Guelph in the OUA championship match, it was another sensational season for No. 4 UQTR, which had won its first six playoff games before facing the Gryphons, including a two-game sweep of archrival McGill in the conference semis. The Patriotes are as explosive as ever this year and ranked first in the country in league play with 4.54 goals per contest and third with a 25.4 per cent efficiency on the power play.

“Our seeding is a reflection of our great playoff run. We beat two top-10 teams in the post-season and there’s no doubt the selection committee took notice,” said second-year bench boss Marc-Étienne Hubert, who is making his first trip to the national tournament. 

The lone AUS entry at last year’s CIS championship, fifth-seeded Acadia hopes to rebound from an 0-2 showing in Saskatoon 12 months ago. The Axemen were as competitive as ever this season in the Atlantic and while they conceded first place in the standings to UNB by a slim three-point margin, they took three of four games against the powerful V-Reds during the regular schedule.

“One of our team goals at the beginning of the season was to get back to the University Cup,” said veteran coach Darren Burns. “With a quality core of returning players from last year’s AUS championship team, we are very excited for this opportunity to get to Halifax to represent Acadia and the AUS.”

Calgary’s solid 26-13 overall record against CIS rivals would look that much better if it weren’t for five losses in seven confrontations against top-ranked Alberta, including a pair in the Canada West championship series. Returning to the University Cup tourney for the first time in three years, the Dinos posted the third-best defensive mark in the country in league play (1.99) and can count on two of the best netminders in the nation in current starter Kris Lazaruk, the Canada West goaltender of the year this season, and backup Jacob DeSerres, last year’s winner of the CIS top-goalie award.

“We have an opportunity in Halifax to represent the University of Calgary and the Dinos hockey program at a very prestigious and competitive event,” said six-year head coach Mark Howell. “Our guys look forward to the challenge and will continue to focus on the things that made us successful in Canada West with strong team defence.” 

After advancing to the CIS championship for the first time in 14 years last winter, No. 7 Windsor didn’t miss a beat this season and finished first overall in the OUA in league play with a 22-4-1 record, before falling victim to upstart Guelph in the conference semis. The Lancers, who are led by CIS scoring champion Spencer Pommels (16-34-50), rebounded to grab the final berth for the University Cup tournament with a thrilling OT win over McGill in the OUA bronze medal match. Forward Ryan Green was the hero of the night, scoring with 61 seconds left in regulation to tie the affair at 1-1 and again after 14:49 of extra time to send his team to Halifax. 

“Our team had a great regular season finishing first overall in the OUA,” said head coach Kevin Hamlin. “We are proud to be at Nationals again this year as one of the three teams from Ontario. We have a resilient group that refuses to be out-competed. I couldn’t be more proud of the six seniors who will see their CIS careers finish on the national stage.” 

Tournament host StFX is in tough against reigning champ Alberta in the quarter-finals but the X-Men more than held their own this season in the AUS going 17-9-2, including a 3-1 mark against Acadia, and then pushing UNB to the limit in a best-of-five conference semifinal. Goaltender Drew Owsley has been a workhorse all year, starting 24 of 28 games during the regular schedule and all seven in the post-season, and he will have to be at his best on Friday if the X-Men hope to pull off an upset. 

“We are very excited to represent StFX and host the first-ever University Cup championship in Nova Scotia,” said coach Brad Peddle. “It will be an exciting tournament offering the best university teams across the country. The competition will be outstanding among all eight teams where every game is a must win. We look forward to the challenge and have to be at our best every night.”

 

NOTES: The traditional meet-the-teams media conference is scheduled for Wednesday at 11 a.m. Atlantic Time at the Scotiabank Centre... The All-Canadian Dinner & Gala is set for Wednesday evening at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel.

 

PARTICIPATING TEAMS

 

NO. 1 ALBERTA GOLDEN BEARS

 

Team Statistics

Head Coach: Ian Herbers (3rd season)

Regular season record: 24-3-1

Regular season standing: 1st Canada West

Playoff record: 4-0

Playoff finish: Canada West champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 32-5

Overall record vs. U Cup teams: 5-2 (5-2 vs. CGY)

Top 10 final ranking (March 8): No. 1

Top 10 best ranking: No. 1 (all 20 polls)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (20 polls): 20

National ranking (offence): 2nd (4.43)

National ranking (defence): 2nd (1.99)

National ranking (power play): 2nd (25.7)

National ranking (penalty kill): 6th (88.1)

 

Individual Statistics

Conference award winners: T.J. Foster (MVP), Jesse Craige (defenceman), Stephane Legault (rookie)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Jesse Craige (D), T.J. Foster (F), Jordan Hickmott (F)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Jordan Rowley (D), Kruise Reddick (F)

Conference all-rookie team: Dylan Bredo (D), Stephane Legault (F), Riley Kieser (F)

Season leader (points): T.J. Foster, 18-24-42 (28 GP)

Season leader (goals): Jordan Hickmott, 19 (28 GP)

Season leader (assists): T.J. Foster, 24 (28 GP)

Season leader (points by defenceman): Jesse Craige, 5-14-19 (26 GP)

Season leader (goalie): Kurtis Mucha (17 GP, 14-2, 1 SHO, 1.87, .917)

 

University Cup History

Appearances: 38th 

Last appearance: 2014 (champions)

All-time record: 65 wins, 31 losses, 2 ties (.673)

Best result: 14-time champions (2014, ‘08, ‘06, ‘05, ‘00, ‘99, ’92, ‘86, ‘80, ‘79, ‘78, ‘75, ‘68, ‘64)

Sequence: 3rd consecutive appearance (17th in 19 years)

 

NO. 2 UNB VARSITY REDS

 

Team Statistics

Head Coach: Gardiner MacDougall (15th season)

Regular season record: 22-4-2

Regular season standing: 1st AUS

Playoff record: 5-2

Playoff finish: AUS champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 32-8

Overall record vs. U Cup teams: 12-5 (3-3 vs. ACA, 2-0 WIN, 7-2 StFX)

Top 10 final ranking (March 8): No. 2

Top 10 best ranking: No. 2 (14 polls)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (20 polls): 20

National ranking (offence): 4th (4.21)

National ranking (defence): 4th (2.12)

National ranking (power play): 15th (19.2)

National ranking (penalty kill): 10th (84.3)

 

Individual Statistics

Conference award winners: Philippe Maillet (MVP), Randy Gazzola (rookie), Gardiner MacDougall (coach)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Jordan Murray (D), Philippe Maillet (F)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Randy Gazzola (D)

Conference all-rookie team: Randy Gazzola (D), Cameron Brace (F)

Season leader (points): Philippe Maillet, 14-25-39 (28 GP)

Season leader (goals): Philippe Maillet, 14 (28 GP)

Season leader (assists): Philippe Maillet, 25 (28 GP)

Season leader (points by defenceman): Randy Gazzola, 2-22-24 (28 GP)

Season leader (goalie): David Shantz (23 GP, 18-5, 3 SHO, 2.24, .897)

 

University Cup History

Appearances: 14th 

Last appearance: 2013 (champions)

All-time record: 25-10 (.714)

Best result: 5-time champions (2013, 2011, 2009, 2007, 1998)

Sequence: Return after 1-year absence (7th appearance in 9 years)

 

NO. 3 GUELPH GRYPHONS

 

Team Statistics

Head Coach: Shawn Camp (8th season)

Regular season record: 11-13-3

Regular season standing: 6th OUA West

Playoff record: 7-2

Playoff finish: OUA champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 18-18

Overall record vs. U Cup teams: 3-3 (1-1 vs. UQTR, 2-2 WIN)

Top 10 final ranking (March 8): No. 4

Top 10 best ranking: No. 4 (final poll)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (20 polls): 2

National ranking (offence): 13th (3.70)

National ranking (defence): 23rd (3.48)

National ranking (power play): 13th (19.3)

National ranking (penalty kill): 24th (79.8)

 

Individual Statistics

Conference award winners (OUA West): None

Conference 1st team all-stars (OUA West): None

Conference 2nd team all-stars (OUA West): Nick Huard (F)

Conference all-rookie team (OUA West): Nick D’Agostini (G)

Season leader (points): Nick Huard, 11-17-28 (26 GP)

Season leader (goals): Robert De Fulviis, 14 (27 GP)

Season leader (assists): Nick Huard, 17 (26 GP)

Season leader (points by defenceman): Mac Nichol, 9-9-18 (26 GP)

Season leader (goalie): Andrew D’Agostini (20 GP, 10-9, 3 SHO, 3.25, .901)

 

University Cup History

Appearances: 9th 

Last appearance: 2002 (3rd in pool)

All-time record: 5-11 (.313)

Best result: 1-time champions (1997)

Sequence: Return after 12-year absence

 

NO. 4 UQTR PATRIOTES

 

Team Statistics

Head Coach: Marc-Étienne Hubert (2nd season)

Regular season record: 19-4-3

Regular season standing: 3rd OUA East

Playoff record: 6-1

Playoff finish: OUA finalists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 29-8

Overall record vs. U Cup teams: 1-1 (1-1 vs. GUE)

Top 10 final ranking (March 8): No. 6

Top 10 best ranking: No. 4 (3 polls)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (20 polls): 20

National ranking (offence): 1st (4.54)

National ranking (defence): 15th (2.79)

National ranking (power play): 3rd (25.4)

National ranking (penalty kill): 2nd (89.4)

 

Individual Statistics

Conference award winners (OUA East): Marc-Olivier Mimar (most sportsmanlike)

Conference 1st team all-stars (OUA East): None

Conference 2nd team all-stars (OUA East): Marc-Olivier Mimar (F), Billy Lacasse (F)

Conference all-rookie team (OUA East): Francis Desrosiers (G)

Season leader (points): Marc-Olivier Mimar, 14-21-35 (26 GP)

Season leader (goals): Tommy Giroux, 15 (25 GP)

Season leader (assists): Guillaume Asselin, 26 (25 GP)

Season leader (points by defenceman): Martin Lefebvre, 6-14-20 (14 GP)

Season leader (goalie): Francis Desrosiers (11 GP, 8-2, 2 SHO, 2.16, .932)

Season leader (goalie): Guillaume Nadeau (17 GP, 11-5, 0 SHO, 3.05, .907)

 

University Cup History

Appearances:  19th

Last appearance: 2013 (2nd in pool)

All-time record: 20-19 (.513)

Best result: 4-time champions (2003, 2001, 1991, 1987)

Sequence: Return after 1-year absence (3rd appearance in 4 years)

 

NO. 5 ACADIA AXEMEN

 

Team Statistics

Head Coach: Darren Burns (14th season)

Regular season record: 20-5-3

Regular season standing: 2nd AUS

Playoff record: 3-4

Playoff finish: AUS finalists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 26-13

Overall record vs. U Cup teams: 4-6 (3-3 vs. UNB, 1-3 StFX)

Top 10 final ranking (March 8): No. 3

Top 10 best ranking: No. 2 (3 polls)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (20 polls): 20

National ranking (offence): 8th (3.96)

National ranking (defence): 13th (2.69)

National ranking (power play): 8th (20.9)

National ranking (penalty kill): 18th (82.5)

 

Individual Statistics

Conference award winners: None

Conference 1st team all-stars: Brett Thompson (F)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Mike Cazzola (F)

Conference all-rookie team: Zachary Franko (F), Remy Giftopoulos (F)

Season leader (points): Brett Thompson, 19-19-38 (28 GP)

Season leader (goals): Brett Thompson, 19 (28 GP)

Season leader (assists): Brett Thompson, 19 (28 GP)

Season leader (points by defenceman): Chris Owens, 4-16-20 (25 GP)

Season leader (goalie): Brandon Glover (24 GP, 16-8, 2 SHO, 2.49, .906)

 

University Cup History

Appearances: 8th 

Last appearance: 2014 (3rd in pool)

All-time record: 7-7 (.500)

Best result: 2-time champions (1996, 1993)

Sequence: 2nd straight appearance

 

NO. 6 CALGARY DINOS

 

Team Statistics

Head Coach: Mark Howell (6th season)

Regular season record: 20-8-0

Regular season standing: 2nd Canada West

Playoff record: 2-3

Playoff finish: Canada West finalists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 26-13

Overall record vs. U Cup teams: 2-5 (2-5 vs. ALB)

Top 10 final ranking (March 8): No. 5

Top 10 best ranking: No. 2 (first poll)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (20 polls): 20

National ranking (offence): 19th (3.21)

National ranking (defence): 3rd (1.99)

National ranking (power play): 7th (21.1)

National ranking (penalty kill): 11th (84.1)

 

Individual Statistics

Conference award winners: Kris Lazaruk (goalie), Elgin Pearce (most sportsmanlike)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Kris Lazaruk (G), Kodie Curran (D)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Elgin Pearce (F)

Conference all-rookie team: None

Season leader (points): Elgin Pearce, 17-14-31 (28 GP)

Season leader (goals): Elgin Pearce, 17 (28 GP)

Season leader (assists): Kodie Curran, 16 (23 GP)

Season leader (points by defenceman): Kodie Curran, 8-16-24 (23 GP)

Season leader (goalie): Kris Lazaruk (14 GP, 9-4, 3 SHO, 1.67, .938)

Season leader (goalie): Jacob DeSerres (15 GP, 11-4, 2 SHO, 2.07, .920)

 

University Cup History

Appearances: 11th 

Last appearance: 2011 (3rd in pool)

All-time record: 7-15 (.318)

Best result: Tied for 3rd place (1996, 1995, 1990, 1988, 1981, 1980, 1976, 1974)

Sequence: Return after 3-year absence

 

NO. 7 WINDSOR LANCERS

 

Team Statistics

Head Coach: Kevin Hamlin (7th season)

Regular season record: 22-4-1

Regular season standing: 1st OUA West

Playoff record: 5-3

Playoff finish: OUA bronze medallists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 26-10

Overall record vs. U Cup teams: 2-4 (0-2 vs. UNB, 2-2 GUE)

Top 10 final ranking (March 8): No. 7

Top 10 best ranking: No. 3 (poll #7)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (20 polls): 20

National ranking (offence): 3rd (4.22)

National ranking (defence): 11th (2.68)

National ranking (power play): 5th (23.6)

National ranking (penalty kill): 21st (80.9)

 

Individual Statistics

Conference award winners (OUA West): Spencer Pommels (MVP), Kenny Bradford (defenceman), Parker Van Buskirk (goalie), Dylan Denomme (rookie), Kevin Hamlin (coach)

Conference 1st team all-stars (OUA West): Parker Van Buskirk (G), Kenny Bradford (D), Spencer Pommels (F)

Conference 2nd team all-stars (OUA West): None

Conference all-rookie team (OUA West): Dylan Denomme (F)

Season leader (points): Spencer Pommels, 16-34-50 (27 GP)

Season leader (goals): Spencer Pommels, 16 (27 GP)

Season leader (assists): Spencer Pommels, 34 (27 GP)

Season leader (points by defenceman): Kenny Bradford, 8-20-28 (27 GP)

Season leader (goalie): Parker Van Buskirk (24 GP, 18-5, 2 SHO, 2.86, .905)

 

University Cup History

Appearances: 4th 

Last appearance: 2014 (2nd in pool)

All-time record: 1-5 (.167)

Best result: 2nd in pool (2014)

Sequence: 2nd consecutive appearance

 

NO. 8 StFX X-MEN

 

Team Statistics

Head Coach: Brad Peddle (10th season)

Regular season record: 17-9-2

Regular season standing: 4th AUS

Playoff record: 4-3

Playoff finish: AUS semi-finalists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 19-12

Overall record vs. U Cup teams: 5-8 (2-7 vs. UNB, 3-1 ACA)

Top 10 final ranking (March 8): No. 8

Top 10 best ranking: No. 8 (last 2 polls)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (20 polls): 4

National ranking (offence): 24th (3.00)

National ranking (defence): 6th (2.15)

National ranking (power play): 12th (19.7)

National ranking (penalty kill): 8th (86.4)

 

Individual Statistics

Conference award winners: Robert Slaney (DR. Randy Gregg Award nominee)

Conference 1st team all-stars: None

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Drew Owsley (G), Nathan Chiarlitti (D), Michael Kirkpatrick (F)

Conference all-rookie team: Jagger Dirk (D)

Season leader (points): Michael Kirkpatrick, 9-25-34 (28 GP)

Season leader (goals): Blake Gall, 11 (28 GP)

Season leader (assists): Michael Kirkpatrick, 25 (28 GP)

Season leader (points by defenceman): Jagger Dirk, 4-13-17 (26 GP)

Season leader (goalie): Drew Owsley (24 GP, 14-10, 4 SHO, 2.28, .917)

 

University Cup History

Appearances: 12th

Last appearance: 2011 (2nd in pool)

All-time record: 14-12 (.538)

Best result: 1-time champions (2004)

Sequence: Return after 3-year absence

 

CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (all times ATLANTIC TIME)

 

Wednesday, March 11

11:00 Meet the Teams Media Conference (Scotiabank Centre)

18:30 All-Canadian Dinner & Gala (Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel)

 

Thursday, March 12

13:00 Quarter-final 1: No. 6 Calgary vs. No. 3 Guelph (Eastlink TV / www.CIS-SIC.tv) 

19:00 Quarter-final 2: No. 7 Windsor vs. No. 2 UNB (Eastlink TV / www.CIS-SIC.tv) 

 

Friday, March 13

13:00 Quarter-final 3: No. 5 Acadia vs. No. 4 UQTR (Eastlink TV / www.CIS-SIC.tv) 

19:00 Quarter-final 4: No. 8 StFX vs. No. 1 Alberta (Eastlink TV / www.CIS-SIC.tv) 

 

Saturday, March 14

12:00 Semifinal 1: Winner QF 1 vs. Winner QF 2 (Sportsnet 360 / www.CIS-SIC.tv) * 

16:00 Semifinal 2: Winner QF 3 vs. Winner QF 4 (Sportsnet 360 / www.CIS-SIC.tv) * 

 

Sunday, March 15

14:00 Bronze (Eastlink TV / www.CIS-SIC.tv) 

18:30 Final (Sportsnet 360 / www.CIS-SIC.tv) * 

 

* The webcast of the semifinals & final are on pay-per-view basis.

With files from Canadian Interuniversity Sport.

Photo courtesy of Brian Smith.