Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Look Back, And A Look Ahead...

Exams are beginning at UNB and another successful hockey season has come to a close. Looking back, the 2008-2009 season was one of the more memorable in recent history, not for the final result but for the adversity and highlights along the way.

The team started by playing possibly the most exhibition games it has in years, and it was great to see so many teams from outside the AUS including Carleton, UQTR, Boston University and UMass. The V-Reds welcomed back Rob Hennigar and the Islanders Rookies, then followed it up with a great series against U of Maine.

Adverstity hit the team in a number of ways. Attrition saw the dominant UNB forward line-up from 2008 lose the CIS player of the year (Rob Hennigar), a pair of veteran warriors in Denny Johnston and Nathan O'Nabigon, and perennial point-a-game player Brad Efthimiou, who finished school and left Canada to play pro in Germany. Then UNB's top forward recruit, Daine Todd, suffered a season ending injury vs Main, but not before scoring 3 goals in 3 games against some very tough NCAA competition, showing us a bit of the high-speed offence he's sure to bring next season. Injuries would haunt the forwards all year long, especially at CIS Nationals when the team's top forward, Hunter Tremblay, missed 2 games and played on one leg in the championship game.

And the goaltending...what else can be said. Both goalies had a bit of a rough start until about 10 games into the season at Moncton. The team would give up a few goals early, before Derek Yeomans battled through the game and kept his team in it. In dramatic fashion the team scored 2 goals in the last few minutes of the game, and Yeomans would go on to stop all 5 shooters in the shoot-out to pull off the win (and actually remained unbeaten in shoot-out attempts all season going a perfect 8-0). From that point on things started looking better in net...

In January, UNB hosted the defending NCAA champs from Boston College and earned a tournament victory in the shoot-out after splitting the games. The results didn't matter, as fans were treated to some of the best exhibition hockey UNB's played in years. Hopefully the school can build on the success it's enjoyed by bringing the likes of Union College, Maine, and BC the last few years, and find a few more teams willing to travel north and overcome the strict NCAA exhibition rules that make it so hard to do so...

The second half revealed the character of this team as they found ways to make the most of their opopportunities. Travis Fullerton was excellent in the the second half, posting a ridiculous shut-out streak, before the leading the team to the play-offs, and ultimately winning the games that mattered most at Nationals. Fitting end for a guy who didn't quite play enough games to be nominated for any hardware during the regular season. (photo credit: M. Chase)

A new milestone was reached by team captain Dustin Friesen, who would set the team record for most games played by a V-Red at 137. The only games he missed at UNB were to help Team Canada bring back the gold medal from Italy with some other great AUS players back in 2007. Along the way he captained the team to two national championships, and is certainly going to be missed. Best of luck in the future Dustin!

As for next year, well see what the future brings. Gone for sure are Friesen, Cuddihy, and Pearce. Looks like UNB will be losing defencemen David Bowman and Justin DaCosta. Justin McCutcheon's future is up in the air as well. The good news is we have a head start by adding Todd to the forward ranks. He played on the top line in his limited action last year. One thing is for sure, UNB will be returning with a formidable roster, and recruiting should get a boost both from recent success and from being rewarded with the priviledge of hosting Nationals in 2011 and 2012.

UNB will need to pick a new team captain. Given all the players who wore letters for their team in junior, this is not going to be an easy task, but it's a nice problem to have. Some early front-runners are J.S. Dickson, Kyle Bailey, and Hunter Tremblay, but don't be surprised if a work-horse like Ryan Seymour or even Friesen's excellent defensive partner, Bretton Stamler, get some consideration. Let us know who you think would be a fit by posting some comments or voting for one of the selections mentioned.

As for us, news is a bit slow this time of year, but we'll continue to pass on any credible information as it trickles in and will be posting some topics for discussion that have been recommended by some of you so check back a few times each week. In the meantime if you have something you'd like to say or contribute (we're always looking for ideas, photos, or videos to share) just drop us a line anytime. Good luck with exams!


Anonymous said...

I think Joshua Hepditch should be named captain, imo!

Anonymous said...

There is only one that should wear the 'C' next year - that would be Kyle Bailey. He is a leader both on and off the ice, and is the 'Freisen'-type guy the team will need in the dressing room, on the bench and on the ice. His work ethic is second to none. A
leader by example.

Anonymous said...

I hope Tremblay stays for the full four years. If UNB doesn't lose any players (who haven't graduated) I think they will have an excellent chance to repeat next year.

Anonymous said...

I hope Tremblay stays too. Tough to have the kind of year he had and in the end not be able to contribute on the ice as much as I'm sure he would have liked.

That may be the VReds saving grace as far as Hunter goes - that he wasn't 100% at the Nationals and may not get the 'opportunities' he deserves.

GoRedsGo said...

My vote for next year's Captain goes to Kyle Bailey as well... I've thought this ever since he was injured in the game against Maine. I remember reading MacDougall's comments in the Gleaner the next day... they were very similar to what was said in a previous post... about him being a leader on and off the ice, that he had the player's respect, etc. Now obviously I'm speculating but he's the one that I'd love to see wear the "C" for the remainder of his years at UNB.

As for next year, IMO I think the team will be stronger up front. Don't get me wrong, I think the team will definitely miss both Cuddihy and Pearce from their lineup, but as was said in the write-up, Daine Todd is already waiting in the wings to take his spot on the top line and with the recruiting boost that UNB will get as a result of winning/hosting Nationals, the team should have more depth and 4 even stronger lines for MacDougall to juggle.

On defense, replacing guys like Friesen and Bowman will be near impossible, not only for their on-ice play, but for everything they brought to the team... leadership, etc. Will DaCosta be back, I'm not sure? I'm still puzzled as to why he only saw limited action during the playoffs and no ice time at Nationals. He is graduating, and you've got to think that if he was scratched from the line-up on these occasions then he can't be happy... I would have to say that he's moving on. If this is the case, hopefully he's passed on his "sure goal" penalty shot.

Yeomans and Fullerton... how many people were throwing them under the bus at the beginning of the season? I was kind of guilty of that, myself. I think that Fullerton certainly silenced all of his critics by his play at Nationals... he made the big saves when needed. Yeomans, as well, I think came up big when needed during the regular season... the game against Moncton, as mentioned in the write-up, comes to mind as an example. Personally, I hope that Yeomans pushes Fullerton for the top spot next year... we all know he's capable of doing so. One would think this would only make Fullerton better as well.

Personally, I can't wait until next season... I've just about got over my end of season depression and am anxiously awaiting the recruiting wars to begin. Here's hoping John Tavares realizes the importance of a quality education and chooses UNB as his method of getting one.

To close, in the words of Fall Out Boy... thanks for the memories.

UNB Bruins Fan said...

If Tremblay stays for 4 years (or more..hopefully)...we may see Hennigar's points record broken...he is already well on his way.

Bill Hunt said...

Nice job on the site, fellows. I don't contribute but I browse frequently.
My vote for team captain would be Bailey as well. I think he embodies what UNB hockey is all about.

David said...

Hep! ... hep! ... hep! ... hep! ... hep!

(I guess if you weren't in T-Bay you wouldn't get it ...)