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TMU men's player Kevin Gursoy points to bench while skating toward them after scoring goal
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Bold storylines in U Sports men’s hockey so far

By Mat Sheridan

With the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold men’s hockey team hosting the U Sports national tournament at the Mattamy Athletic Centre this upcoming March, there are several interesting narratives surrounding what other teams might also be in the building.

Whether it be the squads that are off to their best start in years or the new recruits establishing themselves in U Sports, the men’s hockey programs across the country have provided entertainment for fans so far.

As the halfway mark of the season nears, The Eyeopener has compiled a roundup of storylines to watch among the different conferences in the nation. 

Ontario University Athletics (OUA):

Brock Badgers establish themselves as Queen’s Cup contenders

Sitting atop the OUA West, Brock has come out of the gates firing on all cylinders with a 13-1 record to start the season. With head coach TJ Manastersky at the helm, the Badgers have jumped ahead of other talented teams in their conference and are currently the third-ranked team in the nation. 

Led by the all-around solid play of third-year forward Jacob Roach and second-year forward Tyler Burnie, the Badgers have put together an impressive win total so far by beating other teams such as the Queen’s Gaels and Lakehead Thunderwolves. Connor Ungar, the first-year goalie out of Calgary, has also been stellar so far, sporting a 1.78 goals against average and a 0.944 save percentage through 14 games.

While their schedule doesn’t get any easier, the Badgers are a team that opponents will likely have circled on their calendars as the race to the playoffs picks up.  

Race for first place in OUA East

The OUA East is wide open for the taking. In what is a very close race, the Gaels and L’Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) Patriotes are among a handful of teams vying for first place in their conference. Two talented teams in the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees and the McGill Redbirds are close on their heels as well.

UQTR has gone back to their winning ways after a slow 2-2 start. Led by star fourth-year forward and 2023 U Sports Player of the Year Simon LaFrance, the Patriotes have put together a couple of impressive winning streaks—including one that lasted five games—to put themselves in a great position as the winter break approaches.

In Kingston, Ont., the Gaels are led by second-year forward Dalton Duhart, third-year forward Nolan Hutcheson and fourth-year forward Jonathan Yantsis, a talented trio who have a combined 70 points through 14 games. Queens has turned their program around after finishing with a mediocre 12-14-0 record in 2022-23. They’ve done well against the teams in the OUA West but will have to pull out important wins against in-division rivals if they wish to remain in first.

The Gaels are set to visit UQTR and McGill in December. 

  • TMU men's hockey players Kyle Bollers and Kai Edmonds hug after the win
  • TMU men's hockey player Cole Resnick skates on the ice
  • TMU men's hockey goaltender Kai Edmonds walks out of the locker room tunnel towards the ice
  • TMU men's hockey players Chris Playfair, Kyle Bollers and Connor Bowie fist bump each other
  • TMU men's hockey player Ryan Wells looks up while sitting on the bench

Canada West (CW): 

Crucial crossroads in Canada West

Second-year forward Sam Huo has been on a torrid pace to begin the season for the University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderbirds. The Richmond, B.C. product has scored eight goals and collected 14 assists for 22 points in 12 games. The impressive start helped UBC take first place in Canada West with an 11-1 record. However, Huo didn’t appear in the last two games for UBC against the Saskatchewan Huskies—no update was provided for his absence. The Thunderbirds lost the back-to-back against the Huskies—dropping down to third in the division as a result. 

Having started the season on an impressive 10-game winning streak, the Thunderbirds got big wins against strong opponents such as the University of Alberta Golden Bears and Mount Royal University (MRU) Cougars. Now trailing both the Huskies and Calgary Dinos, it will be important that the Thunderbirds go back to their winning ways if they don’t want to be left behind.

Defensive dynamo off to hot start

MRU Cougars second-year defender Clay Hanus leads all U Sports defencemen in scoring. Having suited up for 12 games for MRU so far, the Minnetonka, Minn. product has scored nine goals and added 10 assists for 19 points.

Hanus’ scoring ability has translated seamlessly from the Western Hockey League. In his last season with the Portland Winterhawks, he collected 74 points in 68 games.

While MRU sits fifth in the division with a 9-5-0 record, they will be a team to watch if Hanus can continue his pace for the rest of the season.

Atlantic University Sport (AUS):

Heavy national tournament favourites storming away with division

The University of New Brunswick (UNB) Reds have picked up right where they left off after having won the national championship last year—their fourth in six seasons. Ranked first in the nation, the Reds have gone undefeated through 14 games, scoring a total of 77 goals over that span while only allowing 24.

The Reds have dominated many games thanks to their all-around depth and ability to recruit top major junior talent from across Canada. The defending champions are led by third-year forward Austen Keating and fourth-year forward Brady Gilmour, who have 23 and 20 points respectively.  

There is a very strong chance UNB will be in town for the national tournament in Toronto as favourites to win it all—which is bound to make other teams wary. UNB has been deemed the team to beat and they have proven it so far this season.

When the winter break ends, teams will begin to turn their eyes toward the playoffs and a potential national tournament berth. From then on, winning will only become more important for the men’s hockey programs and storylines will only become more intriguing.

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