Hockey: The University Cup ... The Day After

Wasn't that a party! This was my eleventh University Cup and the first time I've experienced the incredible explosion of shared joy when the home team wins (I missed Edmonton's hosting). I left the rink at quarter to four this morning and the players, families and friends were still going strong. If you watched the game on Sportsnet you unfortunately didn't hear how loud the noise level rose at the Aitken University Centre every time there was a big hit or goal - when I watched a recording of the game today it wasn't even close. It was the loudest I have ever heard it at the AUC, peaking when UNB captain Kyle Bailey lifted the Cup over his head.

Last night's game was a complete contrast to the night before. Whereas the officials couldn't stay out of the way in the Mustangs-Varsity Reds game, they lost their whistles in the UNB-McGill game. That was certainly a benefit for the V-Reds, who are much more physical than the smaller Redmen. If the same heavy handed officiating crew from Saturday's game had worked the championship game, UNB might have found themselves at the mercy of McGill's lethal power play. But they weren't, and the home squad had the visitors on their heels most of the game.

From a fan perspective I am glad that McGill didn't change their game, and opted to skate with the V-Reds. Calgary showed Thursday night what you can accomplish with a well executed trap and a selfless commitment to blocking shots (learned no doubt from Acadia and StFX) while Western discovered Saturday night what can happen if you don't play a tight defensive system, and can't match UNB's team speed. It's not pretty.

I like this McGill team. I'm one who believes that you may need to lose before you can learn how to win, and the Redman probably learned some valuable lessons Sunday night. Like many, I think they need to get a little bigger up front to compete with the top AUS and Canada West teams. A bruising, crease clearing d-man might help as well. But then I suppose that would apply to most teams.
It was a good week for Fredericton, with most of the games sold out, and over 3000 fans for each of the afternoon games. The V-Reds completed their journey of redemption from last season's playoff upset at the hands of the X-Men. To put that feat in context, consider that this season's version of the Varsity Reds is only a few players different from last year's team, and StFX is an improved team this year. From the team's perspective, maybe the fans will finally stop reminding them of that stumble, and just get back to expecting gold every time.

The #1 ranked and seeded Varsity Reds win their first University Cup at home, their third in five years and fourth since their first championship in 1998. There could be a lot of roster changes in the Red 'n Black before next season, but their destination is the same - Sunday night at the Aitken University Centre.

(All photos courtesy of Brian Smith)

Host V-Reds blank McGill, claim 4th University Cup (The CIS's Michel Belanger and his helpers)
UNB wins fourth title (Bill Hunt, Page 1 above-the-fold story in the Daily Gleaner)
Tournament was a success(Molly Cormier, Daily Gleaner)
Paint the town 'V-Red' (Bill Hunt, Daily Gleaner)
Nationals notebook (Bill Hunt, Daily Gleaner)
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