The CIS men's hockey championships took place last weekend, so I'm a little late to this party, but the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds hockey team are the kings of CIS men's hockey after surviving the weekend tournament. The second-ranked team in the six-team tournament earned their championship in a few hard-fought battles, and the Varsity Reds can stand atop the mountain as CIS champions after their 2-0 victory over the Saint Mary's Huskies in the final.
UNB downed the host Saskatchewan Huskies in their opening game by a 3-1 margin, and hammered the Quebec champion UQTR (Trois-Rivieres, PQ) by an 8-3 score. UNB really didn't face much competition until they hit the final against arch-rival Saint Mary's who was 3-4 against UNB this season. These two teams were very evenly-matched, having played one another all season long in the AUS, so you knew this game would likely be low-scoring.
A slow start for Saint Mary's allowed the Varsity Reds to build some momentum, and Daine Todd would put UNB up 1-0 with his goal just 10 minutes into the game. Aside from that goal, that was all the offence these two teams could muster with the two goalies in the blue paint. It wasn't until the final minutes with Huskies' goaltender Anthony Peters on the bench that another goal was scored. UNB's Tyler Carroll buried the puck into the empty net, and the celebration was on.
"I couldn't be happier," UNB goaltender Daniel LaCosta said after his 17-save shutout. "It'll be a late night tonight for sure in Saskatoon."
With the three wins in the tournament, UNB improved to 26-5-0 on the season - a record any championship team would enjoy. The CIS title is the fifth in UNB history, all under coach Gardiner MacDougall, with the previous wins coming in 1998, 2007, 2009, and 2011. That's a pretty solid record over the last seven years as they have four championships during that span. It appears as though UNB is becoming a hockey powerhouse through their program!
In every championship in the CIS, I always look for an uplifting story about a player. UNB's Travis Fullerton is the player I focused on in this championship season due to his past. Travis Fullerton was the backup for most of the year at UNB, but he showed success as he went 8-4 with a 2.23 GAA in his 12 games. Upon completing the season with a championship, Fullerton signed an amateur tryout contract with the ECHL's San Francisco Bulls!
If Fullerton's name sounds vaguely familiar, he was actually a rising star in the QMJHL with the Lewiston Maineiacs before an alleged drunk driving incident on August 21, 2006 got him removed from the team. Fullerton was the backup to current Los Angeles King Jonathan Bernier while playing with Lewiston! After bouncing around the QMJHL for a couple of seasons, Fullerton enrolled at UNB in 2008, helping the Varsity Reds win three championships in his time at the school. Not bad for a kid who made good after making a serious mistake in his career! Fullerton will play backup in San Francisco for the remainder of the season! Well done, Travis, and congratulations to the UNB Varsity Reds!
In another CIS development, I spoke a little about his new adventure on last week's episode of The Hockey Show, but University of Manitoba's Jesse Deckert recently signed with the ECHL's Florida Everblades! Deckert went 16-9-0 in Canada West play this season, eventually falling in the CWUAA semi-final to the Saskatchewan Huskies. He was one of the better goaltenders down the stretch as his improved play helped the Bisons into a playoff spot in the CWUAA. Had it not been for a slower start by the Bisons, he may have been a CWUAA All-Star.
After the Bisons were bounced from the CWUAA playoffs, Deckert signed on with the Everblades on March 5 and hasn't looked back. Here are the games in which Deckert has played since signing in the ECHL:
- March 6 at Cincinnati Cyclones - 5-4 overtime win with 37 saves.
- March 8 at Fort Wayne Komets - 6-3 win with 30 saves.
- March 9 at Fort Wayne Komets - 6-2 win with 31 saves.
- March 10 at Kalamazoo Wings - 2-1 shootout loss with 26 saves.
- March 17 vs. South Carolina Stingrays - 4-3 overtime win with 19 saves.
- March 22 vs. Cincinnati Cyclones - 6-2 loss with 14 saves.
- March 23 vs. Cincinnati Cyclones - 5-1 win with 23 saves.
And just to make Deckert feel a little more at home, Florida went out on the March 7 trade deadline and signed University of Manitoba defenceman Ty Dittmer to an amateur tryout contract as well! Dittmer has only played in one game - March 8 in Fort Wayne against the Komets - but he assisted on Mike Ratchuk's second-period goal for his first professional point, and finished the game as a +1!
For those keeping track at home, Deckert is wearing #40 with the Everblades while Dittmer sported #5 in his only action thus far. Still, for a pair of Bisons playing university hockey on the cold, Manitoba prairie, joining a pro hockey team in Estero, Florida for the remainder of the season is pretty awesome!
Congratulations to Travis Fullerton, Jesse Deckert, and Ty Dittmer on finding a spot on a couple of professional rosters, and congratulations to the UNB Varsity Reds for winning the 2013 CIS Men's Hockey Championship!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!