(FREDERICTON, NB) “The expectation here is to get to the national championship,” said Cameron Critchlow, in a matter of fact way.
The captain of the UNB Varsity Reds spoke just before boarding the team bus, bound for Halifax, and the 2016 CIS University Cup.
“You wait for this week all year long and it’s talked about all year long… and it’s finally here.”
Critchlow was a member of the last Varsity Reds team to win the CIS title, in 2013. He remembers the bitter taste of losing in the 2015 final. But neither he, nor his teammates, are focusing on that.
“It’s the best time of the year for us. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself still playing on the weekend, you’re setting yourself up for some success. It’s the best time of year to play.”
Dylan Willick agrees.
“We have three games to show the country what UNB hockey is all about,” he says.
The Varsity Reds are the number five seed in this year’s eight team tournament.
They face the number four University of Western Ontario Mustangs, Friday afternoon, at 4:00PM Atlantic.
The Mustangs lost the OUA final, on home ice, to the UQTR Patriotes.
“I don’t think there are going to be any surprises down at nationals,” says Willick.
“There are eight quality hockey teams there. We’re not taking anybody for granted and I doubt anybody’s going to take us for granted either.”
The Mustangs, like the Varsity Reds, had a mid-season letdown.
In the end, they finished second in the OUA West, before knocking off regular season conference champion Guelph to advance to the league final.
After starting the season 8-0-1, UNB dropped four of its next six, finishing the first half at 10-3-2.
The Varsity Reds were perfect in the second half, 13-0. 15-0, if you count two exhibition wins over Concordia.
After sweeping UPEI in the second round of the AUS playoffs, the VReds were swept themselves, by St. FX, in the AUS final.
“I think the boys are ready, and moving on to this week,” says Critchlow.
The disappointment behind them, Critchlow says UNB is focused on the last title up for grabs.
“You’re very conscious that that is the team goal, but at the same time, you can only take one game at a time. You’ve got to earn the right to play Saturday by winning on Friday, so we’re just focused on Friday afternoon.”