Nick Murray – The Brunswickan
March 19th, 2013
SASKATOON – Make it five for the University of New Brunswick men’s hockey team!
The V-Reds captured their fifth national championship, and fourth in seven years, taking down archrivals Saint Mary’s University Huskies 2-0, Sunday night in Saskatoon.
Daine Todd and tournament MVP Tyler Carroll, each scored for UNB in the lowest-scoring University Cup final in the 51-year history of the tournament, while player of the game, Dan LaCosta, stopped all 17 SMU shots for his third shutout of the playoffs in what’s most likely his final game in competitive hockey.
“It’s been an incredible journey with this group of guys, and it feels great to go out on top,” said LaCosta. “Aside from getting engaged, [going back to school] was the best decision I ever made. It was totally worth it; it gave me a totally different perspective on life, and it gave me a chance to really enjoy playing the game again.”
Todd opened the scoring for UNB midway through the first period on the power play, jarring in a loose puck in goalie Anthony Peters’ five-hole from a shot from Nick MacNeil.
With ten seconds left in the game, Carroll threw a 100-foot shot down ice into the empty net, and as soon as the puck crossed the line, the team swarmed the bench in celebration. Even LaCosta left his crease to get in on it.
Captain Chris Culligan had a Joe Sakic-like moment Sunday night, giving the University Cup trophy to Dion Campbell and Colby Pridham to hoist first before everyone else.
“Those guys have been a huge part of our success and that line alone has driven the team,” said Culligan. “Very deserving to both of those guys. All of us older guys, we want the new guys to win, especially Prids playing Saint Mary’s in the finals when he made a tough decision to come to our school, and Dion coming back second half and having the Cup in Saskatchewan; we had lots of motivation.”
Head coach Gardiner MacDougall went to the Pridham-MacNeil-Culligan trio to start the game, and rolled back on the ice after every TV timeout. MacDougall said all three played key roles in helping the V-Reds win, in only the fifth shutout in a University Cup final.
“[MacNeil, Pridham, and Campbell] are three real special players,” said MacDougall. “For a guy like Pridham to come in and get an assistant captain with our group – and we have a lot of leaders – Is just outstanding.”
“Dion has well earned everything he’s done from his fitness level and what he’s meant for our program; he’s created his own legacy here, and for him to raise that trophy in his home province…you couldn’t write a better script.”
“Nick MacNeil is the anchor of that line. He’s just getting better and has been our most improved guy each year, and that group played a lot of minutes together and they just found a way.”
Meanwhile, for Pridham, it was his first time hoisting the University Cup as he was injured and didn’t play when SMU won in 2010. He said, though he thought a lot about how he had to face his former team, he said he wouldn’t trade this win for the world.
“I had to play the game like it was a faceless opponent, and I didn’t want to think of who was on the other side,” said Pridham. “Going through the handshake, I felt for them a little bit, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Trevor’s done a lot for me and I owe him a lot of credit for where my game is. He’s more than a coach, he’s now a really great friend and I appreciate that.”
Finally, for fifth-year veteran Dion Campbell, you can’t script it up any better for him. A goal and an assist in the tournament, including the game-winner against UQTR Saturday night, and leaving his CIS career a national champion in his home province.
“It’s so special that it’s hard to comprehend that it happened like this,” said Campbell. “When I came back [at Christmas], I was all in and I knew what we wanted to do and we just had to work hard and do our best, and that’s what this group did all tournament.”
UNB returned home early Tuesday morning, and will hold a public celebration on Wednesday at noon at the Aitken Centre. All are invited.