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A UNB red hockey player skates with the puck against three Brock Badgers players
2024 U Cup All Recaps Sports

UNB maul Badgers in U Cup quarterfinal

By Dexter LeRuez

The 2024 U Sports men’s hockey championships kicked off at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) on Thursday as the first-seed University of New Brunswick (UNB) Reds defeated the eighth-seed Brock Badgers in 4-0 fashion.

The first vs. last seed matchup sometimes stirs up a ‘David vs. Goliath’ storyline. For Brock, the David vs Goliath storyline was extremely prevalent as for the past year, UNB has maintained unprecedented dominance in U Sports.

The reigning national champions entered Thursday’s matchup with a 39-game win streak, having not lost a game since March 7, 2023.

“You might say they are the best team there has ever been in U Sports,” said Brock head coach TJ Manastersky. “They are just a complete team.”

In the first period, Brock failed to make their role as ‘David’ easier. The reigning champs dominated the ice, making Brock’s defensive third their home. UNB helped themselves to a buffet of scoring chances in Brock’s territory, firing 13 shots before Brock recorded one. 

  • UNB Reds players celebrate the win lifting their sticks in the air
  • A Brock player goes for the puck against a UNB player
  • A Brock players bodychecks a a Reds player into the boards
  • A UNB Reds fans waves a cowbell in the air
  • A UNB Reds player fights for the puck against a Brock player
  • A UNB Reds player smiles on the ice
  • A Brock Badgers player skates with the puck with a Reds player close behind him

Second-year UNB forward Cody Morgan fired one of those shots while wide-open, putting the puck past U Sports Rookie of the Year Connor Ungar to give the Reds the lead.

“One of our goals is to come out flying and try to get as many shots as we can early in the game,” said third-year UNB defenceman Kade Landry. “Cody got above a puck…[found] a lane to the net, and lucky enough, it went in for us.”

Following the goal, the Badgers allowed frustration to overtake their play. Brock players threw caution and their bodies to the wind as they attempted to get back into the game.

However, their aggression only hurt them more as the Badgers took two penalties in 20 seconds to give the Reds a five-on-three advantage.

“They play man-to-man swarm defence,” said Reds head coach Gardiner MacDougall. “So if you move the puck, the puck moves faster than the man usually.”

“We don’t recruit anyone here to be underdogs. It goes with the tradition and the legacy”

It was an advantage that UNB capitalized on. Less than a minute into the five-on-three, Landry would beat Ungar to give the Reds a two-goal lead.

Early in the second period, Brock had a chance to find their footing in the match as second-year Reds forward Camaryn Baber went to the box for interference.

However, halfway through the advantage, Brock would squander the opportunity as a hooking call on Badgers third-year defender Zach Taylor ended their power play.  

Brock’s chances fizzled out after losing the power play. UNB second-year forward Benjamin Corbeil sealed the game for the Reds with two more goals in the third period. One was mishandled by Ungar and slid into the net and a second was put into the empty net with the goalie pulled.

Despite bowing out in the opening game of the tournament, Manastersky called this year “an amazing season.” After setting a franchise record for wins, qualifying for nationals and developing the U Sports Rookie of the Year in Ungar.

“I’m really proud of what our guys did today,” he said. “I thought they gave it everything they had…we had a heck of a season.”

For UNB, the quest for an undefeated season continues. The Reds will play in the semi-finals against the winner of the Calgary Dinos and the Toronto Metropolitan University Bold on Saturday afternoon. 

With the elusive perfect season on the horizon, MacDougall recognizes that there is a target on his team’s back.

“[There’s] been a target since day one,” he said. “We don’t recruit anyone here to be underdogs. It goes with the tradition and the legacy.”

UP NEXT: The semi-final game will be played Saturday at the MAC. UNB will face either TMU or Calgary.

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