DURHAM – For the second time in his university hockey career, Durham’s Matt Fillier is a CIS champion.
Sunday the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds knocked off their AUS rival Saint Mary’s Huskies 2-0 to capture their fourth national title in seven years. His second national championship comes two years since their last win and a year after being eliminated in the semifinal. He said it’s rewarding after early critics dismissed the team.
“It was pretty special this year because a lot of people counted us out early in the season because we lost a number of key guys and a lot of leadership,” said Fillier. “Guys just stepped up and we found a way. It feels great to be a national champion again, that’s for sure.”
In 2011 the team won at home in Fredericton, where his family was able to be in attendance. Comparing the two wins he said they’re special for different reasons.
“The one we won in 2011 was at home so it was pretty special winning in front of our home fans and friends,” he said. “This win on the road is just as special because these are a great group of guys. We had a lot of adversity to overcome throughout the year, but we pulled out another AUS championship, our third straight, and to come to Saskatchewan and beat Saint Mary’s again is pretty special.”
Comparing the two wins, in 2011 the Varsity Reds dominated the McGill Redmen with a 4-0 victory, but this year won 2-0 with an empty net goal sealing the win with 10 seconds remaining. Fillier said there was no point where the team was concerned about the game slipping away.
“We’re a pretty confident hockey group and we know what we’re capable of doing and there was no doubt in the dressing room between periods,” he said. “We had Dan LaCosta in goal who has played a few games in the NHL and is an outstanding goaltender and we knew we’d find a way to hold on.”
A geomatics student at UNB, Fillier will graduate in May, but he said he has no plans so far. He said he has a number of opportunities for employment, but wouldn’t rule out playing if an opportunity arose. He said his time at the university has prepared him for their option.
“It’s a challenge coming to school right out of junior because if you play until you’re 20 you’ve been out of high school for a few years and you’re just taking courses to take courses,” he said. “When you play junior you’re playing 70 games and it was definitely a shock to come to university and go full time. You learn how to work and what kind of character you have. It was a lot fun playing here and coach (Gardiner) MacDougall brings in a lot of character guys and that’s why I have two national championships.”
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