The Varsity Reds men’s hockey team’s season ended on a positive note on Sunday as they defeated the Saskatchewan Huskies 5-4 in overtime in the U Cup bronze medal game, rebounding less than 24 hours after their devastating semi-final loss to St.FX.
While winning the bronze medal was not the result UNB was expecting after an excellent season, the game served as a reminder of the team’s bright future. Four of the V-Reds’ five goals were scored by rookies, while only two members of the team—captain Dylan Willick and New Maryland native Mike Thomas—were in their final year of eligibility.
Play was somewhat sloppy in the first two periods of the game as UNB worked their way back from an early two goal deficit to take a 4-3 lead midway through the second period, only to see the Huskies tie the game once again in the dying minutes.
The game tightened up significantly in the third as the competitiveness of the two teams seemed to kick into high gear. There would be no more goals until 4:14 into overtime when rookie Alexandre Goulet, who didn’t join the team until midway through the season, scored his second goal of the night. Fellow rookie Tristan Pomerleau and veteran Mark Simpson were awarded assists on the goal.
“It was a great play by Simpson—you know, he just threw it in front of the net and I just tipped it. I was lucky it went in,” said Goulet about the game winning goal.
The fact that it was a consolation game did not lessen the intensity of the game, as both teams were perhaps taking out their frustrations of having suffered defeat the night prior.
“For some teams it’s a big, big deal [to play for the bronze medal] and we wanted to try to make it a big deal,” said Varsity Reds coach Gardiner MacDougall. “I’m sure both teams really had to find ways to get motivated. It’s gut-wrenching for our group to be [tournament] hosts and have the season that we did—we played so hard yesterday, and there were some variables that we unfortunately weren’t in control of that can make the difference in the game.”
Playing in the final game of his university hockey career, Thomas was at the centre of much the game’s physicality, showing off the hard-hitting style that made him so popular among his teammates and hated by opponents during his career.
In the post-game press conference, Willick seemed at peace with the end of his time as a Varsity Red, choosing instead to focus on the opportunities both in and out of hockey that may await him in his post-UNB career.
“It’s a lot of mixed emotions right now, obviously we’re happy with the end result today…It is nice to end it on a positive note,” he said.
“For me it’s just onto the next chapter. UNB has been a wonderful place for me to develop as a person and as a player, hopefully I can get some opportunities to keep using that experience and develop myself a little bit further.”
The gold medal game was an evenly matched affair as the Alberta Golden Bears came back from being down 2-0 in the first period to defeat St.FX by a final score of 4-2. The game winning goal was scored by forward Wil Tomchuk, with assists going to Taylor Cooper and Steven Owre.
Golden Bears’ goaltender Zach Sawchenko and X-Men goaltender Chase Marchand received Player of the Game honours for their respective teams.