The ‘icing on the cake:’ UNB REDS complete perfect season, national championship

The University of New Brunswick Reds Men's hockey team after winning the 2024 season of U sports. (Submitted: UNB Reeds Men's Hockey)

On March 17, the University of New Brunswick (UNB) REDS took on the Université de Québec à Trois-Rivieres (UQTR) Patriotes in the 2024 U SPORTS men’s hockey national championship final. UNB had won their last 42 straight regular season, playoff and Nationals games. 

UNB defeated UQTR 4-0 thanks to a three-point performance from Atlantic University Sport (AUS) MVP Austen Keating and a shut-out from Samuel Richard, who did not allow a single goal against in the three games played during the 2024 University Cup.  

Kale McCallum joined the REDS midway through last season after a successful stint in the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League with the Val-d’Or Foreurs and the Saint John Sea Dogs.  

“It was definitely special … doing something that’s never been done before, is pretty special for the group of guys we had here,” said McCallum. 

The second-year defenseman from Fredericton had a career season, amassing 42 points (11 goals, 31 assists) in 30 regular season games, which ranked first in defensive scoring in both the AUS and U SPORTS, earning himself defenseman of the year honours. 

“That being said, we have a very special group of guys here doing that,” said McCallum. “ I think it’s a great accomplishment and now we’re just kind of getting excited for next year.” 

You would think the team may have felt some added pressure after winning 37 straight games, however, according to McCallum, that was not the case for the REDS. They just took it one game at a time. The team was focused on the process and the outcome was simply the result of doing good things on the ice, he said. 

“There wasn’t really any added pressure. Every game we went into with the same mindset of just, you know, we can win tonight if we play our best,” said McCallum. “I think we executed [that on] a lot of nights.”

As for what the hopes are for next season for the team, McCallum knows that some changes are coming to the older core of the team, as some will be going off to play professional hockey. However, McCallum still feels that if UNB can stick to the same game plan, then they will be poised and confident enough to have “one hell of a season next year as well.”  

A long-time fan of the UNB men’s hockey program is Graham Crandall, who has been a fan for twenty or more years. He said that the team has “always been a part of life” for him, having graduated from the university in 1984. 

“Gardiner MacDougall and this program, they’re gonna put a fine team on the ice,” said Crandall. “That’s what makes them exciting.”

It’s always nice to win, he said, citing the electric atmosphere fans get when they attend a UNB game at the Aitken Centre. Crandall has had season tickets for many years and there is always a chance to renew if season ticket holders wish. 

“You can count on me for the upcoming season.”

Jeff Speedy, the current athletic director for the REDS echoed may of the same sentiments as McCallum, saying that “it’s pretty special” to have such a successful hockey program on campus. He nodded to the four AUS championships for the REDS this year, including men’s cross country, women’s curling and both hockey teams. 

“It’s always special to win an AUS championship, it’s even extra special, call it the ‘icing on the cake’ when you win a national championship,” said Speedy.

One of the easiest times to recruit is when the team has just won, he added. Recruiting for a team with a 5-15 record is tough, but when you’re winning national championships, it becomes easier for head coach Gardiner MacDougall to recruit the best players.

“Success breeds success,” said Speedy.

MacDougall is a strong recruiter and will continue to get the best of the best, said Speedy. 

“There’s a lot of people that know about UNB because of the success of our men’s hockey program.”