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Players from the UNB Reds yell with the U Cup in the middle of them in celebration of the win
2024 U Cup All Recaps Sports

Undefeated UNB wins gold at the Gardens, repeat as national champions

By Alex Wauthy

One hundred and eighty minutes of perfection, or three consecutive shutouts, personified the University of New Brunswick (UNB) Reds’ now flawless season. 

UNB’s 4-0 victory over the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) Patriotes at the Mattamy Athletic Centre Sunday night cements the Reds as all-time greats in U Sports men’s hockey after claiming gold in the 2024 U Cup. 

Lil Baby, Lil Wayne and Metro Boomin erupted from the Reds’ locker room as Coors Light’s and Miller Lites went hand-in-hand with pepperoni pizza while the champions marched back and forth between on-ice jubilation and post-game celebration. 

“It’s pretty surreal what we just did,” said fourth-year forward Brady Gilmour. “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.” 

A three-point night from third-year forward Austen Keating and a third shutout from second-year netminder Samuel Richard made the difference for UNB. They knocked off the back-to-back-to-back Queen’s Cup champions en route to a perfect season and a flawless national tournament—where they didn’t concede a single tally.

UNB stifled UQTR’s transition game in the opening minutes of the first frame, limiting them to offsides and dumps to negate the waves of the Reds’ chances. That was until second-year forward Simon Lafrance broke through the neutral zone and attempted to split UNB’s defence, drawing a hooking penalty on the play. 

The Patriotes’ power play looked promising, but UNB held off one of their few true defensive tests of the tournament. 

Keating sprung Gilmour on a breakaway just as UQTR’s power play expired. Gilmour picked up steam and beat Alexis Gravel blocker-side, sparking the rattles of cowbells and cheers from the swaths of UNB fans in attendance. 

“We did something really special this year, and I’m insanely proud of this group”

“[For the] last game in my UNB career, I think Keating too, we wanted to come out and have a great game and have an impact on it,” said Gilmour. “Keating made a great pass on the first one. Luckily enough, it went in. Top to bottom, our entire group, I can’t say enough about each and every guy.”

UNB double-upped on UQTR later in the frame. Keating sent a pass to Gilmour below the left hash mark, who sent a crisp feed to second-year forward Cody Morgan—tic-tac-toe—and in a flash, UNB boasted a 2-0 lead. 

As Morgan triumphantly skated to the bench, he motioned for UNB’s fans to get on their feet before fist-bumping the outstretched hands of his teammates. 

UQTR racked up some high-danger chances amid UNB’s relentless offensive brigade, but the Queen’s Cup champions entered the first intermission down two.

Physicality and goaltending were the story of the second period. 

“You have to have good opponents to get better; you don’t get better if you don’t have good opponents,” said UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall. “Fortunately, we got a lot of good opponents. We don’t always get the love in the [Atlantic University Sport conference]—someone from U Sports said, ‘Well, it’s good that you’re going to come up to this tournament; you’re finally going to get some competition.’”

Gravel and Richard traded sensational saves as UQTR came close to becoming the first team in the national tournament to score on UNB. 

Third-year defenceman Kade Landry took a cross-checking penalty, giving the Patriotes another man advantage to pull themselves within one. UQTR managed multiple chances—including a scrambling backward Richard—but an unwillingness to pull the trigger kept the game 2-0 for the Reds. 

“I don’t think a person would dream this up in his wildest dreams”

“We work very hard, probably harder than any team in U Sports,” said Richard. “I think our habits are so good from that that in games, it shows up,” he said as the loved ones of UNB’s athletes sang “We Are The Champions.” 

First-year defenceman Sam McGinley’s point shot banked off the end boards and popped out to a net-side Keating. The Guelph, Ont. product snagged the puck and flicked a backhander over Gravel’s pad to extend the Reds lead to three. 

“We have the best fan support in the country,” Gilmour said. “It’s pretty special to have this support. Fredericton is a long way from here—for them to be this loud, it’s awesome.” 

UQTR’s players slammed their sticks in frustration, knowing their fleeting quest for gold grew dimmer by the minute. 

Third-year UNB forward Isaac Nurse potted an empty net to push UQTR’s lead to four, and at that point, the only thing separating UNB and a national championship was the seconds on the scoreboard. 

“The first word we talked about with the group was love,” said MacDougall. “We know it’s very difficult to go back-to-back. We’ve won a few championships, and going back-to-back is not easy.” 

The clock struck zero, and it was official—the Reds were U Cup champions for the second straight year. 

“I don’t think a person would dream this up in his wildest dreams,” said MacDougall. “They set new standards for not just our group, but U Sports.” 

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