(FREDERICTON, NB) For the fourth straight year, a team of U SPORTS men’s hockey all-stars will face Canada’s junior team prospects, and for the fourth straight year the UNB Reds will be well represented.
Five members of the Reds have been selected to the team, and Reds head coach Gardiner MacDougall will serve as an assistant coach.
Defencemen Marcus McIvor and Matt Murphy, and forwards Mark Simpson, Kris Bennett, and Chris Clapperton will travel to Victoria to take part in the three-game series against the junior prospects.
“It’s obviously a good feeling to be selected to the team and I’m very excited,” said Murphy, a Business Administration student, now in his third season with the Reds. “There’s a lot of good players, and probably a good chance a lot of them will be playing in the NHL one day, and it’s just kind of exciting to be facing off against them.”
The U SPORTS all-star team will feature 25 players from all three conferences, including a total of eight from Atlantic University Sport.
“It’s great for our league,” said Clapperton, the leading scorer in the AUS. “It’s a good match-up and we can show what we’ve got, and at the same time, they have a chance to get better.”
The three-game series will take place in Victoria, British Columbia, site of national junior team’s selection camp.
The teams will meet on Wednesday, Dec. 12, at 10:00pm Atlantic, on Thursday, Dec. 13, at 10:00pm Atlantic, and Friday, Dec. 14, at 6:00pm Atlantic.
“It’s pretty special to play against them,” said Bennett, named U SPORTS Rookie of the Year in 2017-18, and one of just three second year players named to the university team. “They’re going to be a bit younger, but it’s going to be cool to play against them and help prepare them for the big tournament.”
Calgary Dinos head coach Mark Howell will serve as the team’s head coach.
MacDougall will join Ottawa’s Patrick Grandmaitre and Regina’s Todd Johnson as his assistants.
“I am really excited about the roster we have assembled,” said Howell. “We have players that can do a little bit of everything. All our guys can skate very well and have a ton of skill.”
Last year, the U SPORTS all-stars, which included UNB’s Randy Gazzola and Stephen Anderson, swept a two-game series from the junior team prospects before Team Canada went on to win the World Championship.
“It’s great for our school, it’s great for our team,” said McIvor, the Reds captain in 2018-19. “It just goes to show that we’ve got an excellent program. It’s five guys going, it could’ve been ten guys going from our team.”
“We have a lot of depth,” added Simpson. “I even think we could’ve sent a couple more guys, with some of the seasons they’re having.”
“It certainly makes it more exciting and more enjoyable that you get to share it with some of your teammates,” said the third year Computer Science major.
For now, the five Reds players will focus on exams and finishing the first semester.
They travel across the country on Monday, all looking to represent UNB and themselves as best they can.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said McIvor. “It’s a great chance to showcase yourself. You get to see where you’re at and what you have to do to get better.”
“Obviously, there’ll be NHL teams watching. It’s a great opportunity for everybody involved,” added Simpson.
34 players have been invited to Hockey Canada’s national junior team selection camp. 22 will be chosen to represent the country at the 2019 World Junior Hockey Championship being held in Vancouver and Victoria from Dec. 26 through January 5.