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TMU Bold men's hockey player Joe Rupoli
2024 U Cup Sports

Bold and Redbirds seek redemption in bronze medal game at U Cup

By Sam Beaudoin

The battle of ‘heartbreaks’ at the 2024 U Sports men’s hockey national championship is set. 

The Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold will look to make program history by securing their first-ever podium placement at the national tournament on Sunday when they take on the McGill Redbirds in the bronze medal game. 

The matchup will feature two programs from the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference—thus setting up what should be a heated and physical game to decide who leaves the Mattamy Athletic Centre with bronze around their necks. 

“We’re just motivated obviously…[it] is a new day and we want to win that bronze medal,” said third-year TMU forward Kyle Bollers following the Bold’s semi-final loss. 

The two programs met three times in all competitions during the 2023-2024 season—including the Homecoming game back in September 2023.

The Bold came out victorious in their lone regular season matchup on Jan. 13.

“When we came here to start the year, we knew this is where we wanted to end the year,” said McGill head coach David Urquhart.

“We want to win that bronze medal”

TMU has experienced a rollercoaster of emotions over the past week. The hosts suffered a heartbreaking double-overtime loss at the hands of the Université du Québec à Trois Rivières (UQTR) Patriotes in last Saturday’s Queen’s Cup final. 

With little time to dwell on the heartbreak, the Bold then drew the fifth-seeded Calgary Dinos in quarterfinal action. The team found itself in double overtime yet again, however, they managed to flip the narrative. 

The Bold would advance with a 2-1 victory, setting up their semi-final matchup against U Sports’ most dominant program, the University of New Brunswick (UNB) Reds. 

The 2023 national champions quickly ended the Bold’s hope of playing for gold on home ice, dominating the home side through 60 minutes, with a convincing 7-0 victory—extending their win streak in all competition to 41 games. 

“For our group, we don’t lose twice, and we definitely don’t get embarrassed twice,” said Bold captain and third-year forward Chris Playfair. “[We’ll] take our anger from this game and use it as motivation to leave here with some hardware tomorrow.”

With the loss, Duco’s team will be playing in their second national tournament bronze medal game in the last three years. The then-Ryerson Rams lost 3-2 to the St. Francis University X-Men at the 2022 national tournament.

“We know that feeling [of losing], that game does mean something to us,” said Playfair. “With all the work we’ve put in this season…there’s a lot of motivation to end this season on a positive note and move the TMU program forward.” 

  • TMU Bold men's hockey player Elijah Roberts looks sad
  • A McGill University hockey player
  • Referees and players hold different members of the Bold and Reds hockey team after they got into a fight
  • McGill University hockey players celebrate a goal on the ice
  • TMU Bold men's hockey player Kyle Bollers skates on the ice
  • A group of McGill University hockey players
  • A TMU Bold player fires a shot at the UNB net
  • Two McGill University players fist bump on the ice
  • The puck goes into the TMU net after a UNB player shoots it
  • McGill University hockey players celebrate with their hands in the air
  • Two McGill Redbirds skate towards a group of three teammates celebrating a goal

The hosts have been in this position before, with their run in the tournament thus far shaping up to be a carbon copy of the one back in 2022—a narrow quarterfinal win followed by a blowout loss in the semi-finals. 

Nine players remain from that 2022 roster for TMU, including a pair of third-year linemates in Bollers and Kevin Gursoy. For the Bold, who have struggled offensively in the tournament—with just two goals—it’ll be crucial for their two star graduating players and their first-year linemate Daniil Grigorev to bring their A-game.  

“For the guys that have been here for the past few years, we’ll be pushing for each other and try to end this thing on a good note,” said Bollers. 

Playfair said it’ll be crucial for his squad to continue to embrace the mentality Duco has instilled in them all playoffs long, “Don’t let wins go to your head and don’t let losses go to your heart.”

“We’ve got one more opportunity to come together…and finish on a high and get our first national medal in program history,” said Duco.

McGill has also dealt with their share of heartbreak over the past couple of weeks.

En route to UQTR lifting the Queen’s Cup on the MAC ice, the Redbirds fell to the OUA champions in three games in the OUA East final.

It’s probably one of the toughest games in the tournament to play

“I think we’re a mature team, we just to have to find a way forward, no matter how heartbreaking,” said third-year defenceman Scott Walford after his team’s semi-final loss. 

McGill salvaged their loss by claiming the OUA bronze medal in a convincing 5-2 win over the Brock Lancers on March 9.

The win secured the program the No. 6 seed in the national tournament and a first-round matchup against the Canada West champions in the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. 

With a gutsy 3-2 victory over the No. 3 seed, the Redbirds pulled off the only upset in the tournament, through the first two rounds. Thus, setting up a storybook rematch against their Québec rivals in UQTR with a trip to the gold-medal game on the line.

McGill gave UQTR all they could handle in a down-to-wire thriller. However, despite the strong performance, the Redbirds were spectators of a UQTR celebration for the second time in as many weeks.

“We’ve been the underdogs all year,” said Walford. “We’ve been knocked down many times and picked ourselves up, it’s just a matter of doing it again.” 

While the Bold will enter attempting to utilize the home crowd to its advantage, the Redbirds on the other hand will enter riding fresh bronze medal game experience. 

“It’s probably one of the toughest games in the tournament to play—the bronze medal game early Sunday morning after the Friday night game. So, what can you do? You feel bad for yourself for five minutes and then prepare for the next game,” said Urquhart. “It’s a great opportunity to go out there and play for third place in the country.”

The game will likely come down to which squad can push away their U Cup ambitions the quickest—and come to play for third in the country. 

Duco believes the group in his locker room has earned the chance to play for a medal. 

“I’d love it for the guys, they certainly deserve it,” he said. “This group fights tooth and nail every day.” 

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