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Amherst’s Hunter wins third national title in four years with UNB hockey

Amherst’s Jordan Hunter (front, left) celebrates with his team, including head coach Gardiner MacDougall (back, left), after the UNB Varsity Reds won a national title March 17 in Lethbridge, Alta.
Amherst’s Jordan Hunter (front, left) celebrates with his team, including head coach Gardiner MacDougall (back, left), after the UNB Varsity Reds won a national title March 17 in Lethbridge, Alta. - Contributed

AMHERST, N.S. – Jordan Hunter knows what it takes to win championships.

As a video coach with the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds men’s hockey team for the past four years, the Amherst native has won three national championship gold medals, and one bronze.

The 21-year-old received his most recent gold medal March 17 in Lethbridge, Alta., after the Varsity Reds beat the University of Alberta Golden Bears 4-2 in the gold-medal game, securing the David Johnston University Cup.

“We knew coming in at the beginning of this season that we’d have to beat Alberta in the final and, luckily, we met them in the final,” said Hunter.

Alberta went into the tournament ranked number one in the country, while UNB, which plays out of Fredericton, was the number-two seed.

The day before the final, Hunter and two other Varsity Reds staff, Matthew Smith of Tatamagouche and Tyler Murphy of Sussex, N.B., studied game video of their opponent.

“We went through every single regular season game Alberta played,” said Hunter.

Studying Alberta’s special teams was a priority.

“Alberta had one of the best power plays in the country, so we spend four of five hours overnight gathering special teams information.”

He says it can take up to 20 to 24 hours to produce a video to present to the team.

“At the end of the day you show 10 minutes of video and a five minute report about lineups and systems.”

The information they produce can be the difference between winning and losing.

“There’s little things we pick up on that, at the end of the day, can be the difference between being down 2-1 going into the third period, or being up 3-1 going into the third period,” said Hunter. “Knowing your opponent helps broadens your vision as to what you can do, so video helps give our players the ability to go beyond their abilities.”

An innovation used by the NHL, on-bench video, was implement at UNB hockey over the past year.

“We became the first team in U-Sports men’s hockey this year to have game review on the bench,” said Hunter. “So, instead of waiting for the intermission, our penalty kill coach could go to the players and show them how to make adjustments.”

Hunter believes other Canadian university hockey teams will copy their on-bench system next season.

“The game of hockey is about copying the best, so I’m sure when Halifax hosts the championships next year we’ll see teams with iPads on the bench,” said Hunter. “I’m sure we’re not going to be outliers next year in terms of technology but I’m proud we became the first, and it helped us become champions. You couldn’t ask for a better team.”

The Varsity Reds are coached by Gardiner MacDougall. He now has seven national titles under his belt as head coach of the Varsity Reds; winning in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2017, and 2019.

Hunter says MacDougall always brings out the best in everyone around him.

“It’s one of those teams where nobody has a title except the title to win. It’s a truly special program and it’s all because of the head coach,” said Hunter. “Every bit of the process, every step of the way, you have to put in your worth. Everything you can possibly do, you have to do.”

Hunter says that at the start of each season MacDougall says to the team, ‘if you want to make an impact on this legacy then you have to wear work boots.’

“It’s a rich tradition, so the only way you can add to it is to win,” said Hunter. “And for the last four years we’ve been able to build on that honour and build on that legacy.”

Hunter is wrapping up his undergraduate studies in in kinesiology this summer, and is looking to build a winning hockey tradition somewhere else next season.

“I decided this will be it for me at UNB but, saying that, I will be there next year if I decide to pursuit a Masters degree,” said Hunter. “But right now I’m looking at my pro opportunities and maybe a really good developmental job for me as a coach to understand more of the game.”

Hunter is thankful to the Varsity Reds for showing faith in him.

“It’s funny how I kind of ran into it. I didn’t think I’d be editing video coming to university but at the end of the day I learned how to build video and, also, how to help develop a championship team,” said Hunter. “That transferred to my schooling and ended up making me a better person. I can’t be more thankful about it. It’s the best program in the country for a reason.”

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