FREDERICTON — Canadian university hockey has a new standard of regular season perfection after the University of New Brunswick Reds men’s team won its 30th consecutive game over the weekend.
The nationally top-ranked Reds routed the University of Prince Edward Island 9-1 on home ice Saturday to become, at 30-0, the first team to record a perfect season since the Western Mustangs went 24-0 in the 2002-03 season.
“It’s a tremendous accomplishment, no question,” coach Gardiner MacDougall said in an interview before his team’s practice on Monday. “There have been a lot of good teams through UNB, and with this group through the regular season it’s a new standard.”
The men’s hockey program at the Fredericton-based school with just over 10,000 students has won nine national titles. MacDougall has been behind the bench for eight of those championships since being hired as head coach in 2000.
The most recent championship came last year when the Reds beat the Alberta Golden Bears in the national final held in Charlottetown. The team has also won 19 Atlantic University Sport (AUS) titles.
MacDougall, a native of Bedeque, P.E.I., said while no team expects to go undefeated, he wasn’t surprised because his team has consistently demonstrated its will to win, while not looking too far ahead.
“You just take care of each game by itself, which I think the group has done a very good job of, just staying in the moment and not so much worrying about outcomes,” he said.
MacDougall gives credit for his team’s success to a core of about eight players who were recruited to UNB during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. “We had 80 practices that year and no games, and those guys stayed with it,” the coach said.
The bulk of his team’s recruits are players who have finished their careers in one of Canada’s three major junior hockey leagues.
Reds assistant captain Kade Landry made the journey east in 2020 after playing two years of major junior with the Barrie Colts and another two years with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League.
“Coming from Ontario I kind of knew that the AUS league was the most competitive, and it was kind of known as the best league,” said Landry.
Now a fourth-year business student, Landry said he decided to come to Fredericton after “multiple” phone conversations with MacDougall. “It was kind of a no-brainer the more I learned about the program,” he said.
As for this year’s success, the defenceman said he and his teammates began to sense something was happening when the Reds hit the Christmas break at 18-0.
“I remember talking to some of the guys and thinking this could be something really special,” said Landry. “Then each game, each win means more and more.”
Despite the achievement, Landry said it was clear during training camp in September that the team’s goal was to win another national championship.
“It’s not to be 30-0 on the season and it’s not to win the AUS championship,” he said. “It’s a disappointment at UNB when you don’t win each year and this year it would be even more so, considering the year that we are having.”
The Reds have a bye during the first round of the AUS playoffs and will face their first opponent on Feb. 23.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2024.
— By Keith Doucette in Halifax
The Canadian Press