New Brunswick

History in the making: UNB women's hockey team plays 1st game this fall

Mark your calendars because the University of New Brunswick's new and improved women's hockey team has its season schedule.

Team's 1st hockey game is Oct. 13 at the Aitken Centre against Mount Allison University

Sarah Hilworth, head coach of the women's hockey team at UNB, said players are already gearing up for their first game in October. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

Mark your calendars because the University of New Brunswick's new and improved women's hockey team has its official season schedule.

The conference schedule released this week puts UNB's first game on Saturday, Oct. 13, against Mount Allison University at the Aitken Centre in Fredericton.

"Things are finally starting to come to life here," said Sarah Hilworth, who coaches the UNB team.

"We have that date circled on the calendar."

While most teams treat their hockey game schedules as routine, Hilworth feels the schedule holds a lot more significance to her players.

The UNB women's hockey program was cut in 2008 and only reinstated after a former player's challenge through the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission. Hilworth was brought in last June.

I believe that we can be a playoff team we just have to go out there and prove it now.-Sarah Hilworth, coach

"It's been a long year, but I can start seeing day one in my head now," she said.

The team already has 22 competitive players, most from Western Canada. Tryouts are also scheduled for the beginning of September for one or two additional players. 

"Everything we get this year is new and exciting," Hilworth said. 

The coach and team are hoping to get a good crowd out to the fall game. They're planning to co-ordinate with the City of Fredericton, so residents can "take in a historical moment of bringing back a program."

Hilworth hopes to bring in fans, UNB alumni, donors and anyone willing to catch a glimpse of the momentous game.

Battle of the hill

"Anyone who just wants to participate and be a part of history, be a part of our program," she said.

On the Sunday of that weekend, the team will also play St. Thomas University.

"The battle of the hill is coming back to Fredericton," Hilworth said.

She said the Tommies are a good hockey team and the Varsity Reds have a lot of work to do to prepare for the big game.

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"There's no better opponent to go head to head with right off the bat," she said. "A little bit of rivalry will just spark it a bit more."

She said the hockey coaches have already started designing jerseys and have received hockey gear for players.

"Once we start getting the dressing room set up for those girls to walk in on day one, that's when it's really going to start to hit home that things are real," she said.

Players and coaches alike have even started preparing for game No.1. against the Sackville university.

Sees team in playoffs

Coaches are looking at stats, old videos of other teams to make sure they're not behind.

She said players are also taking part in strength and conditioning programs, team-building activities and leadership training. Meanwhile, training camp is expected to start on Aug. 31.

"I believe that we can be a playoff team," Hilworth said. "We just have to go out there and prove it now."

With files from Philip Drost

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