Thursday, February 25, 2021

AUC Gets A Makeover

If you happened to take a drive behind the Aitken Centre today, you may have noticed crews hard at work sprucing up the exterior. I think it's safe to say it is a slight upgrade over the previous sign, which you needed a telescope to read.

Babcock To Lead Huskies

U Sports men's hockey was in the national sports spotlight this week as the Saskatchewan Huskies announced Stanley Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medal-winning coach Mike Babcock as their new head coach. The former Maple Leafs bench boss will replace long-time Huskies coach Dave Adolph, who will be retiring in May as the winningest coach in Canadian university men's hockey history.

Babcock returns to his roots as he grew up in Saskatoon and played the 1981-1982 season for the Huskies. He would later coach the now-defunct Lethbridge Pronghorns for one season in 1993-1994, leading the school to their only national championship. 

This seems like an ideal situation for Babcock. With Toronto still paying him 5.85 million per year through the 2022-2023 season, this allows him to get back to coaching on a volunteer basis for two seasons in his hometown, near his family, for a program and a league that he has strong ties to. It will also give him the chance to repair his reputation after a number of scathing allegations about his coaching style and character emerged since his dismissal in Toronto. 

For U Sports, having a coach of Babcock's stature in the league should create some buzz and and bring national attention to a league that desperately needs any publicity it can get.


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Maillet Makes NHL Debut

This past Sunday marked a special day for the UNB men's hockey program as former star forward Philippe Maillet made his NHL debut for the Washington Capitals.

The 28 year old Maillet had 11 shifts and saw 8:02 of ice-time. He was credited with one shot on goal, two face-off wins in four attempts, and wasn't on the ice for a goal for or against in the Capitals 7-4 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. 

Maillet is the 162nd NHL player produced by U Sports and the first UNB alum to appear in an NHL game since Kevin Henderson suited up for Nashville in 2013.

During his illustrious four year career at UNB, Maillet, racked up 201 points in 132 games to rank 4th in program history, won two National Championships (2016, 2017), was an AUS rookie of the year and member of the U Sports All-Rookie team (2014), was a two-time AUS MVP (2015, 2017), two-time AUS scoring champion (2015, 2017), two-time U Sports first team All-Canadian (2015, 2017), 2017 Major W.J. "Danny" McLeod Award winner as University Cup MVP, 2017 Senator Joseph A. Sullivan Trophy winner as the U Sports men's hockey Player of the Year, and 2017 BLG Award winner as the U Sports Athlete of the Year.

Congratulations to Philippe for this amazing accomplishment!

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Saigeon Chooses Reds

The University of New Brunswick Reds have added forward Brandon Saigeon to their 2021-2022 recruiting class, the team announced yesterday. 

A former 5th round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche, the 22 year old native of Grimsby, Ontario played five seasons in the Ontario Hockey League split between the the Belleville Bulls, Hamilton Bulldogs, and Oshawa Generals. He put up 251 points (105 goals, 146 assists) in 304 career games with his best season statistically coming in his final season in 2018-2019 when he posted 37 goals and 55 assists in 68 games. Additionally, he was the Bulldogs leading scorer with 18 goals and 7 assists in 21 playoff games as the Bulldogs - which also included recent Reds recruits Kade Landry and Isaac Nurse - captured the 2018 OHL Championship.

Upon the completion of his junior career, Saigeon played a season in the ECHL with the Utah Grizzlies. He scored 18 points (8 goals, 10 assists) in 51 games in his lone season of professional hockey. 

He will join UNB after completing a 14 day isolation.

Saigeon becomes the third confirmed recruit for the Reds for the 2020-2021 season, joining the previously announced Griffen Outhouse and James Phelan. 

With how difficult it may be to project how major junior players will adapt to the AUS given the lack of a CHL season thus far (outside of a smattering of QMJHL games), perhaps it is not a coincidence that Gardiner MacDougall and company have recruited three players out of the professional ranks. It will be interesting to see if this strategy continues over the summer.   

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Harvey, Boucher Turn Pro

The University of New Brunswick Reds have lost two key pieces to the professional ranks this week as goaltender Samuel Harvey and forward Matthew Boucher have inked AHL and ECHL contracts, respectively. 

According to the Daily Gleaner's (subscription required) Bill Hunt, Harvey has signed a tryout contract with the San Jose Barracuda, the AHL affiliate of the Sharks, where he is expected to compete for their backup role. 

The former Memorial Cup-winning netminder will leave UNB after a short, but spectacular, stay. After completing some of his university courses while in junior, the plan all along for Harvey was to stay with the Reds for two seasons to complete his degree before moving on to the professional ranks. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic meant Harvey only got to play one - unfinished - season in the red and black, posting a 14-2 regular season record with a 1.87 GAA and a 4-1 postseason record with a 1.21 record, leading the Reds to another AUS championship. Their game three victory over Acadia in the AUS Final proved to be the last game of the season as the season was cancelled the night before their opening game at the University Cup. 

Meanwhile, it was announced today that Boucher has signed with the ECHL's Utah Grizzlies. The consistent forward spent two seasons at UNB, putting up over a point per game each year. He accumulated a total of 61 points (31 goals, 30 assists) in 57 regular season games before adding another nine points in as many playoff games. He had three assists in three games at the 2019 University Cup, helping UNB to a national championship.

The loss of Harvey and Boucher isn't necessarily surprising given that pro leagues are starting up again soon and there is an increasing unlikelihood we will see any AUS competition in the near future. However, their departures are a big blow to a UNB roster that had already lost a number of key contributors from last season's squad. 

We may not know when we will the see the Reds back in action, but one thing is for certain - the team that takes the ice will be vastly different looking from the one we last saw raising the AUS trophy in March.