Having won three University Cup championships in the last four years and eight in the last 13 seasons, those involved with the University of New Brunswick Reds men’s hockey program know what it’s like to stand on top of the mountain in U Sports.
However, it’s a brand new feeling for former Prince Albert Raiders netminder Rylan Parenteau after he won his first national title last weekend in Lethbridge, Alta following a 4-2 win over the Alberta Golden Bears.
“It’s definitely been a surreal experience for me,” Parenteau said.
“It really amazes that there are some guys on our team that have won three titles in the four years they’ve been here in Fredericton. It just shows the amount of leadership and great veterans that the Reds have had in the locker room over the last few years.”
The Reds had some extra motivation to regain their spot as the top team in Canadian university hockey this season, as they lost on home ice to the archrival St. Francis Xavier X-Men in last year’s University Cup semifinal.
After posting a 25-2-3 record to lead the Atlantic University Sports conference, the Reds swept through the AUS post-season and won all three games at the University Cup by a 15-4 goal differential.
“Even though we had lost a few good players from the year before, there were still a number of great leaders in our room and we used what happened to us at home in the last University Cup as something that we wanted to improve on,” Parenteau said.
“It’s strange to say that two losses were the turning point of our season, but I think the games where the X-Men beat us in their rink in January really gave us some extra motivation. To beat them in the league playoffs and again in the University Cup semifinal was a nice feeling.”
Parenteau, who is studying geological engineering in Fredericton, posted an 11-1-1 record, a 1.89 goals against average and a .903 save percentage in his sophomore campaign.
“It’s been a great transition for me into what is a very high caliber league,” Parenteau said. “I was happy to get some games in last year to get a feel of what it was like in U Sports and I was able to split time with (senior netminder) Alex (Dubeau) during the regular season this year before he took the reigns in the playoffs.
“I’m really happy for Alex to get the University Cup MVP and a pro contract (with the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets) with how well he played this season. His complete level is second to none and I’ve been able to learn a lot from him over the last two years.”
With no major junior hockey team in Fredericton, the Reds are the biggest attraction in town and have some of the biggest crowds in the country for U Sports hockey.
“That was one of the big selling points for me when I decided to come here after I finished in the Western Hockey League with Tri-City,” Parenteau said. “The nearest junior team is over an hour away in Saint John, so we’re the big show in town.
“It’s a similar environment to what it’s like in Prince Albert when the Art Hauser Centre is full. Both fan bases are fantastic.”
Although the Reds will be losing Dubeau, their leading scorer Chris Clapperton and senior blueliner Randy Gazzola to the pro ranks, they are again expected to be in the mix for another University Cup title in 2020 with Parenteau being the most experienced goalie on the roster.
“It’s tough to lose some of those guys, but it allows other guys on the roster and the incoming freshmen to step up into bigger roles,” Parenteau said. “That’s part of what makes this program a successful one year after year.”