(FREDERICTON, NB) They’ve come from across the country to be part of history.
The 23 women who will represent the University of New Brunswick in its return to women’s hockey in Atlantic University Sport are a talented and diverse bunch, all eager to build a championship program.
13 forwards, seven defenders, and three goaltenders.
Most are using their first year of U SPORTS eligibility.
Only a handful know what to expect, having used eligibility elsewhere.
“This team’s strength will be our passion,” says forward Hayley Hallihan, one of five New Brunswickers on the team. She played two seasons with the Saint Mary’s Huskies, where she won a conference championship. “Every one of us is passionate about this team and the logo we wear.”
The Reds make their long-awaited return to the AUS on Saturday, when they host the Mount Allison Mounties. Game time is 7:00pm, at the Aitken University Centre.
“We’ve been counting down to the home opener, like little kids waiting for Christmas,” says Paige Grenier, among those who’ll make their U SPORTS debuts on Saturday. “I think some nerves are to be expected, especially considering we’re facing an opponent we haven’t played yet, but once we settle in and the puck is dropped it’s bound to be a great game.”
Grenier, an 18-year-old from Olds, Alberta, became the first Red, late in the summer of 2017.
She was the first player extended an offer by head coach Sarah Hilworth, the first to take a chance on the returning program.
“I don’t think the weight of how special this season is will be lost on us, given that it’s been a decade since UNB has had a varsity women’s hockey team,” she says. “I think we all know how fortunate we are to have this opportunity. As a result, I think every single one of us is motivated to do the very best we can for this team.”
With Grenier committed, Hilworth quickly filled the roster.
Commitments followed from Wainwright and Peace River, from Kitchener and Kanata, from Wilcox and Winnipeg, and from Richmond, the home of blue-liner Hannah Green.
“Being a brand new team, there is going to be pressure on us to make a good first impression,” says Green. “There are a lot of people who support what we’re doing and we want to be able to show everyone that even though we’re young, we can compete and be successful.”
They came together, for the first time, on August 31st.
The training camp that followed was rigorous and demanding, but it brought the group together.
“I think we’ve put in some quality work and leaned a lot over the course of training camp,” says Grenier. “Each day we’re progressing and getting better, which has definitely been reflected in our exhibition games. Despite some tough competition, I think we’ve proven to ourselves and others that we’re going to be competitors in this league.”
“Everyone showed up ready to compete and ready to build this team,” says Hallihan, one of five veterans on the Reds roster. “The hard work and grind of training camp created so much chemistry on the team.”
“We’ve already battled adversity and have seen just how hard this team can push to be successful, and we’ve also learned how much more we have to give,” she says.
While the new Reds are aware of the history, they acknowledge it is the past and they represent the future.
Few know the details of what happened, only that women’s hockey has been absent for more than a decade.
“I remember when the team folded ten years ago,” says forward Emma Dow, the only Frederictonian on the roster. “I feel honoured to be able to be part of such a historic moment. To be able to put that jersey on and represent Fredericton is an indescribable feeling.”
History aside, Dow believes the new Reds are ready to compete.
“I think our passion and compete levels have really come up,” she says. “Looking back on our first exhibition game compared to our last, there is a big difference. We’re working harder than ever before and our desire to prove ourselves is really pushing us to be better every single time.”
The women who’ll lead UNB back into the ranks of AUS and U SPORTS hockey are:
#2 Amanda Desrochers, a first year defender and Science major from Winnipeg
#4 Paige Grenier, listed on the roster as a defender, she plays forward too. A Kinesiology major, from Olds, Alberta, she scored the team’s first goal in exhibition play and is seen as a future team leader.
“It’s remarkable how fast we’ve come together,” says Grenier. “As a result, we’re starting to see that on-ice chemistry, as everyone settles in and becomes more familiar with each other’s tendencies.”
#6 Reece Laumbach, a first year defender and Science major from Wainwright, Alberta.
#7 Lillian George, a first year forward and Arts major from Garden Village, Ontario.
#8 Tamina Kehler, a first year forward and Arts major from Chilliwack, British Columbia.
#9 Jenna Himer, a first year defender and Kinesiology major from Peace River, Alberta.
#10 Emma Dow, a homegrown first year forward and Science major.
“We are all very excited to hit the ice and bring back the Reds,” says Dow. “This has been a long time in the making and we all feel honoured to be a part of such an exciting time.”
#11 Julia Spitzig, a first year forward and Arts major from Kitchener, Ontario.
#12 Hanna Matchett, using her third year of eligibility, the forward played previously for Hilworth at Olds College. She’s from Nanton, Alberta.
#14 Sage McElroy-Scott, a first year forward and Kinesiology major from Morden, Manitoba.
#15 Emma Borbandy, a first year defender and Arts major from Langdon, Alberta.
#16 Hayley Hallihan, a third year forward and Forestry major, from Miramichi. Her experience and championship history at Saint Mary’s will be an asset for the young Reds.
#17 Hannah Green, a first year defender and Kinesiology major from Richmond, British Columiba.
“I think we’re going to overwhelm teams with our speed and puck handling,” says Green. “Our defence is strong offensively and they like to jump up in the play.”
#18 Ashley Stratton, a first year forward and Kinesiology major from Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador.
#19 Alayna Wagstaff, a first year forward and Kinesiology major from Olds, Alberta.
#27 Sydney DesRochers, a third year forward and Kinesiology major from Woodstock, New Brunswick. She played parts of two seasons with at the Universite de Moncton.
#31 Jaclyn Purcell, a second year goaltender and Arts major from Saint John, New Brunswick. She spent last season with St. Thomas University Tommies.
#35 Hailey Martens, a first year goaltender and Kinesiology major from Ladysmith, British Columiba.
#47 Jenna MacLean, a first year defender and Kinesiology major from Wilcox, Saskatchewan. She’s a third generation Red. Her grandfather and uncle played hockey here too.
#70 Kendra Woodland, a first year goaltender and Arts major from Kamloops, British Columbia.
“We know that there may be some doubters out there, but as a new team, there’s no excuse but to work harder and find a way past the outside negativity,” says Woodland. “We want to be the best we can be and gain respect moving forward with each team we play, doing whatever it takes and leaving no doubt.
#77 Myah Bowal, a first year forward and Engineering major from Terrace, British Columbia.
#91 Jennifer Bell, a fifth year forward and Engineering major from Miramichi, New Brunswick. Her depth of knowledge and experience will be an asset to the Reds in her one and only season.
#94 Katherine Chadwick, a first year forward and Kinesiology major from Kanata, Ontario.
#21 Frederike Cyr, a red shirt forward and Kinesiology major from Montreal, Quebec. She spent part of last season with the Universite de Montreal Carabins.