(FREDERICTON, NB) Sarah Hilworth can now circle a date on her calendar.
After almost a year of planning, building, and recruiting, the head coach of the returning UNB Varsity Reds women’s hockey team has a schedule in front of her.
“I think this just gives this program some more life, now that we can see that first game at the Aitken Centre,” said Hilworth. “I know this will empower our players to work that much harder in the off-season.”
The Varsity Reds officially return to Atlantic University Sport on Saturday, October 13th, when they host the Mount Allison Mounties. Game time is 7:00pm.
“Our first league weekend will be tough, but I know how hard our athletes are working right now, and I hope this gives them inspiration to push that much harder,” she said. “We know this is a very tough league and from day one we have to have a blue-collar mentality of getting work done.”
It will be the first Varsity Reds regular season women’s hockey game since February 16th, 2008.
If you’re counting, that’s a span of ten years, seven months, and 27 days.
The Varsity Reds-Mounties match-up is one of two games on what is the second day of the 2018-19 AUS regular season.
The schedule opens the night before, on October 12th, with three games.
“It’s taken a lot of work to get here,” said John Richard, UNB’s Director of Athletics. “Putting this team back on this ice has not been easy. Everyone knows the story. It’s nice to be able to look at the calendar now and know that we’ve got games to play, starting October 13th.”
The release of the schedule is something Paige Grenier has been waiting for.
“I’m incredibly excited,” said the 18-year-old forward from Olds, Alberta.
Grenier was the first player to sign a U SPORTS Letter of Intent for the returning Varsity Reds, and is someone Hilworth will be looking to for leadership this season and beyond.
“Every time I think about that date, I picture myself pulling on the jersey for the first time, and think about the feeling I’ll get when I step on the ice,” said Grenier. “Now that the day is set, I can’t wait to be part of that atmosphere.”
Less than 24 hours after their much-anticipated return, the Varsity Reds will begin writing a new chapter in an ages old rivalry.
The “Battle of the Hill” resumes when UNB hosts the St. Thomas Tommies on Sunday, October 14th, at 2:00pm.
“Anybody will tell you that rivalry games are the most fun to be part of,” said Grenier. “I think every game will be important for us, so the approach to each game will be the same regardless of who we’re playing, but without a doubt we want to win every time we face-off against them, as there’s a little more at stake.”
“STU is a very good team and will be a great opponent,” said Hilworth. “I know this will be a great game for our team, and program. It’ll be exciting not only for both institutions, and it’s an excellent opportunity to showcase high level female hockey in our community.”
While the release of the AUS schedule now gives Hilworth and her players something new to focus on, it does little to change what they’re doing.
Hard work has gotten them to this point, and that hard work will continue.
“This represents a ton of hard work that our organization and athletes have already put in to lay the foundation for our team to achieve success,” she said. “There have been many hours, and still a ton more to come, but I believe this is the start of something special for this team and this athletics program. I’m excited for the work that is ahead, and once our team is here on campus, I’m excited for the next step we’ll all take together as a team.”
AUS teams can open training camps on Friday, August 31st.
That’s another date Hilworth has circled on her calendar.
The team will play a number of exhibition games in September, all of them on the road.
So, October 13th will truly be ‘opening night.’
“We look forward to October 13th. It’ll be a special night,” said Richard. “We hope people join us, regularly, to cheer Sarah and her team. It’s going to be quite a season.”
The reborn Varsity Reds make their first road trip the following weekend, when they visit St FX and Moncton.