UNB News
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The year of the goalie at UNB

Author: Mark Leger

Posted on Jun 16, 2023

Category: UNB Saint John , UNB Fredericton

Kendra Woodland

Kendra Woodland grew up with two older brothers; Shayne was a defenceman and Riley a goalie. A fierce competitor at a young age, Woodland aspired to be as good or better than them. When she was ten, she told her father she’d rather be a goalie than a position player.

“I wasn't a goal scorer, so I got a little frustrated and said, ‘you know what, dad? I want to be a goalie like Riley and see what I can do,’” Woodland said in a recent interview from her home in Kamloops, B.C.

“I fell in love with the position, and I fell even more in love with the game itself.”

More than ten years later, she’s shown what she can do.

When Woodland entered first year at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in 2018, they were restarting a women’s varsity hockey program that had been shut down in 2008. Woodland was a star recruit and five years later, the program is the better for it.

In March, her REDS finished first in the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference in the regular season and then won a second consecutive conference championship, beating St. Francis Xavier University (STFX in the final.

Woodland also suited up for Team Canada in January at the World University Games in Lake Placid, New York. She recorded a shutout in the final as Canada won the gold medal with a 5-0 victory over Japan.

UNB had great representation on that team, with Jenna MacLean on defence and Sarah Hilworth and Kyle MacDonald as part of the coaching staff.

“It’s like the Olympics at the university level,” she said. “You get to meet new people from many countries who are the best university athletes across the globe… I was also really lucky to have three of the best people share that experience with me.”

With the REDS, Woodland’s 0.824 winning percentage and 0.960 save percentage were the best in the country, earning her awards as most valuable player in the AUS and U SPORTS women’s hockey. They made it to the quarterfinals of the national championship tournament before losing to the l‘Université de Montréal.

The accolades kept coming for Woodland. She was named winner of the James Downey Shield award as UNB female Athlete of the Year and AUS Female Athlete of the Year. She was recently a finalist for the U SPORTS Athlete of the Year – the top national award for an athlete in any varsity sport.

It certainly was the “year of the goalie” at UNB.

In late March, the UNB men’s hockey team won its ninth national championship with a 3-0 victory over the University of Alberta Golden Bears.

It was the highlight of the season for Samuel Richard, named AUS and U SPORTS Rookie of the Year, who recorded the shutout for the REDS. Shortly after the season ended, he got a call from the Toronto Maple Leafs to be a backup goalie in late-season game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Woodland was really impressed by the first-year goalie and recognizes the significance of having top-flight goalies on the men’s and women’s hockey teams.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be on the ice with him a few times and do some goalie sessions,” she said. “It’s definitely been amazing to see how the goaltending has flourished this season.”

UNB’s success between the posts hasn’t been confined to the university’s hockey teams, though.

Jillian Smith

Jillian Smith, who was in her fifth and final year at UNB, had a great season in goal for the UNB Seawolves soccer team.

The 1st Team All-Star keeper led the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) in save percentage (.935) and was second in goals against average (0.5), total saves (100) and shutouts (6).

The Seawolves made it all the way to the ACAA championship game against the Mount Saint Vincent University Mystics.

Smith, the ACAA Goalkeeper of the Year, didn’t allow a goal in regulation time but neither did Mystics keeper Morgan Gillies. The Mystics won the game on penalty kicks after both went scoreless for 120 minutes of play.

“She had a fantastic season and is an incredible leader. “The heart and passion she displayed was infectious … I haven’t felt a vibe like that in a long time with a team,” said Natasha Kelly, the Saint John director of athletics, wellness and recreation.

“They worked so hard for each other and left it all on the field. That championship match, if it had gone on for another 24 hours, I don’t think anyone would have gone ahead with a goal. It was that close… there was a bit of disappointment. [But] they said they were ultimately pleased with the result as they knew they had given it their all. I am incredibly proud of their efforts and their outlook on the outcome.”

Woodland, who is returning in the fall to finish her undergraduate degree in kinesiology and begin a master’s program, felt the same way about being a finalist for the national athlete of the year.

“Once you get to that stage, you want to top it off with a trophy,” said Woodland. “[But] to be the AUS representative and nominee is so special in itself…you’re among the best of the best.”

Banner photo: Kendra Woodland. Photo credit: James West for UNB Athletics.