(FREDERICTON, NB) It may sound cliché, but the UNB Varsity Reds men’s hockey team say they’re worried about themselves, not their opponent.
The Varsity Reds host the Saint Mary’s Huskies in game one of the Subway AUS semi-finals, Thursday night at 7:00pm.
“They’re a good team, they’re well coached,” said Varsity Reds defenceman Randy Gazzola(Thorold, ON). “Saint Mary’s has some good forward lines and some good young D, and both goalies have given us trouble in the past.”
The Huskies advanced to the Atlantic University Sport semi-finals with a 2-1 quarter-final series win over the UPEI Panthers.
Gazzola says, as good as the Huskies are, the Varsity Reds are focused on themselves.
“We know what we can do to win,” he said. “We’ve done it in the past. The more we keep it simple and stick to our game plan, that might sound cliché, but that’s been our theme. Focus on what we’re doing.”
Gazzola was one of two Varsity Reds named as major AUS award winners on Wednesday.
He was named the league’s Most Sportsmanlike Player and winner of the student-athlete community service award.
On the Most Sportsmanlike Player honour, Gazzola was pleasantly surprised.
“That’s how I try to live my life. It’s always been my number one word, respect… and integrity,” he said. “I think that kind of shows in my game. I’m not saying I don’t play hard, but at the same time if people around the league notice I play with integrity and respect, it was nice to get.”
First year forward Kris Bennett(Brampton, ON) was named the AUS Rookie of the Year.
“I can’t thank my teammates and coaching staff enough for all the support and confidence they’ve given me,” said Bennett. “I’ve gotten a lot better this past year than other years. It says a lot about my teammates. I’m playing with great players, they compliment me a lot and it’s as much about them as it is me.”
Like the veteran Gazzola, Bennett feels the Varsity Reds need to focus on what they do, not what the Huskies do.
“We need to play how we’ve been playing all year. It’s worked, so far,” said Bennett. “We just need to come out excited and with a jump. We’re looking to win every game, but the first two games, at home, are going to be huge. We’re always looking to win.
Both Bennett and Gazzola were also named to the AUS 2nd All-Star Team, along with forward Chris Clapperton(Cap d’Espoir, QC),
Bennett and freshman goalie Rylan Parenteau(Saskatoon, SK) were named to the AUS All-Rookie Team.
Game two of the series goes Friday, at UNB’s Aitken Centre, at 7:00pm.
The best of five series then shifts to Halifax, for games three and four, if necessary, next Monday and Tuesday.
If a fifth game is needed, the Varsity Reds would host it on Thursday, March 1st.