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A UNB player celebrates on the ice
2024 U Cup All Sports

Behind the scenes of UNB’s historic championship win at the Gardens

By Ilyas Hussein

They crushed beer cans. They mowed down pizza slices. They blasted hip-hop songs at full volume and proudly draped themselves with the New Brunswick flag in a historic moment. 

The University of New Brunswick (UNB) Reds completed their perfect season by winning the U Sports men’s hockey national championship—their fifth in the past seven full seasons—on March 17 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).

Throughout the regular season, Atlantic University Sport playoffs and national tournament, UNB went undefeated—last losing on March 7, 2023. 

Their reign of dominance was highlighted at the 2024 U Cup where they didn’t give up a single goal—the first time a team completed that feat in the tournament’s history. 

“I don’t think a person would dream this up in his wildest dreams,” Reds head coach Gardiner MacDougall said. “Truly, a special group. They’ve set new standards not only for our program but for U Sport.”

As the clock neared zero in the gold medal game, the UNB players on the bench preemptively jumped onto the ice with budding excitement. The sound of the horn was followed by sticks, gloves and helmets being tossed into the air alongside the players’ primal screams. The rowdy Reds fans—who made their presence felt during the whole tournament—were out of their seats as they clanged their cowbells and clapped their hands. 

“They’ve set new standards not only for our program but for U Sport”

Photographers, loved ones and staff members crowded the jubilant southside of the rink around second-year UNB netminder Samuel Richard’s net. Fourth-year UNB forward Brady Gilmour and his teammates embraced one another as it would be the last time they’d all play together on the same team. 

“It’s pretty surreal what we just did,” Gilmour said. “I don’t know if it’s gonna sink in quite yet, but we did something really special this year and I’m insanely proud of this group.” 

However, on the other end’s blue line stood the demoralized and defeated Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) Patriotes. After losing 4-0 to the Reds, the Patriotes accepted silver at the national tournament—their third consecutive national podium placement.

Eight days after the Patriotes celebrated a championship win at the MAC, they found themselves on the other side of the script.

With the shaft of their sticks pushing up their visors and their gloves covering their mouths, they silently watched the Reds celebrate before slowly heading off the ice. 

Yet, the festivities on the other side of the ice continued and soon trailed into UNB’s dressing room. 

  • UNB players lift a trophy
  • The UNB Reds pose for a picture with the trophy and banner
  • UNB players hug and celebrate
  • UNB players cheer and celebrate on the ice
  • UNB players smile with arms wrapped around each other

There was captain Jason Willms accepting the championship banner alongside assistant captains Austen Keating, Kade Landry and Gilmour before he hoisted the U Cup over his head while Landry slipped and fell. 

There was the playing of “We Are The Champions” by Queen and its lyrics being sung by the loved ones who were scattered along the ice. 

There was MacDougall, who raised the U Cup several times to the tune of belting yells from the UNB players each time. 

There was Griffen Outhouse, who rushed in and out of the dressing room to put away bags of hockey equipment under the table outside its door as hip-hop music echoed in the hallways.

There was Colton Kammerer clutching a pair of Coors Lights. There was Sam King not far behind him holding the same with a pizza slice in his other hand. 

There was Cody Morgan who jokingly uttered, “These are so good,” after grabbing three cans of Coors Light himself.

There was Isaac Nurse, who had the championship banner draped over his back before he calmly slugged back a beer while on the phone with a loved one. 

There was Benjamin Corbeil who wore the New Brunswick flag over his shoulders as others did the same on the ice. 

Each player, coach and staff member respectively took the moment to bask in the championship glory.

“Top to bottom…I can’t say enough about each and every guy,” Gilmour said. 

Earlier on Sunday, the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold men’s hockey team fell 3-2 to the McGill Redbirds in the tight bronze medal game. 

Their dressing room was a stark contrast to UNB’s hours later as they were left without a medal at the national tournament for the second time in three years. 

TMU head coach Johnny Duco softly spoke to his players after they blew a one-goal lead late in the third period. A pin drop could be heard over his voice as the players sat in their stalls and shed tears. 

The Reds blew out TMU 7-0 in their semi-final matchup and Duco had nothing but praise for the eventual national champions. 

“That team does that to everybody all the time,” he said following their loss to the Reds.

UNB—who defeated an Ontario University Athletic side in each game en route to their tournament win—has high expectations for next season after coming off a perfect year.

But, they aren’t focusing on what’s next right now as the beer and pizza took precedence following their historic win on Sunday evening. 

“We haven’t thought that too far ahead yet,” Keating said. “Obviously, [a perfect season] is something special that has never been done before and I think that is what makes this moment so much greater.”

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