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Jenna MacLean a defensive gem for Canada at Winter Universiade


A charter member from the first class of the revived UNB Reds hockey, heralding a new generation, Jenna MacLean emerged as one of its brightest stars. With the 22-23 season marking her fifth and final season in the Reds paraphernalia, a cherished opportunity to play internationally for Canada at the Winter Universiade in Lake Placid, New York, added luster to such an exciting time.

Recognized as the 21-22 Atlantic University Sports (AUS) Defensive Player of the Year, MacLean, raised in Wilcox, Saskatchewan, joined star goaltender Kendra Woodland as the first Reds from the celebrated program to play for Canada in women’s ice hockey at the Winter Universiade. 

Worth noting, both are among a celebrated class of fifth year players for the Reds, including Myah Bowal, Paige Grenier, Lilian George, Tamina Kehler, Hayley Martens, Ashley Stratton and Alayna Wagstaff. Fittingly, Reds head coach, Sarah Hilworth earned a place on Canada’s coaching staff.

Reflecting on the announcement of being named to the Canadian contingent, the combination of achievement, thrill and national pride represented a seminal moment for MacLean. For every girl that first plays the game, the dream is to one day wear the Canadian jersey. Realizing that dream provided a pinnacle culminating in a golden destiny.

“When I got the call that I had made the final roster for the FISU games, I felt so many emotions. Wearing the maple leaf and representing my country on an international stage was a dream of mine as a young girl, and this was my opportunity to make that dream come true.”

Making her debut for Canada on January 11, the number 43 adorning MacLean’s jersey, an element of serendipity defined the experience. Starting between the pipes, Woodland required only 13 saves in a 4-0 final versus Slovakia.

The following game, MacLean enjoyed the milestone of her first international point. In a convincing 5-1 win against Czechia, she logged an assist on Canada’s fourth goal of the game. Scored by Shae Demale, serendipity emerged as a theme once again. Of note, Demale was among four stars from AUS play on Canada’s roster, competing with the Saint Mary’s Huskies.

Rolling through the preliminary round with an undefeated record, all games were contested at Maxcy Hall in Potsdam, New York. With the medal round hosted at Lake Placid’s Herb Brooks Arena, originally known as the Field House International Ice Rink, the facility hosted the 1980 Winter Olympic Games.

Gaining the opportunity to play in such a hallowed arena, it signified a monumental milestone for MacLean to play on Olympic ice. Taking to the ice on January 20, facing off versus Slovakia in the semifinals, the proud Reds connection continued. Woodland made 21 saves in the 6-1 victory, Canada qualifying for the gold medal game.

“Playing at the Herb Brooks Arena and getting dressed in the original Miracle dressing room was such a cool experience as a hockey player. Playing in a rink that had so much character and history for a medal of our own was amazing.” 

Blanking Japan by a 5-0 mark in the gold medal game, Woodland required just 12 saves, the triumph providing a point of glorious pride for players and university alike. As a side note, less than one month later, the Reds clinched their second straight AUS regular season title, MacLean, Woodland and Hilworth maintaining their winning ways. 

Undoubtedly, the opportunity to win the gold medal in an Olympic venue brought a level of prominence and sense of world class standing. Elements that shall always stand as part of a defining moment for MacLean, emphasizing the theme of a dream come true.

From the 2022 regular season and postseason AUS championships to the gold medal at the 2023 Winter Universiade, this triptych of hockey glory marks an important peak. Of note, the 2022 championships marked the first in Reds history while the Winter Universiade gold signified the first for Canada since 2013. Becoming synonymous with significant and historical achievements, MacLean brings a celebrated closure to a remarkable run with the Reds, the exclamation point on a legacy established.

“Winning a gold medal in Lake Placid was an experience of a lifetime, a core memory, one I will remember forever. Having the chance to play alongside some of the best players in the country against girls from around the world was incredible on its own, and to finish that experience with a gold medal was the icing on the cake; like I said, it was a dream come true.”

All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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