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Jenna MacLean makes it happen as AUS Defensive Player of the Year

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When the University of New Brunswick Reds returned to Atlantic University Sport competition in the autumn of 2018, Jenna MacLean emerged as one of their most promising players. Earning a place on the AUS All-Rookie Team, her progression as a key contributor and strong leader enabled her to become a dependable presence, anchoring the defensive unit as the Reds quickly rose to national prominence.

Raised in Wilcox, Saskatchewan, where she starred for the prolific Notre Dame Hounds, MacLean was destined to wear the Reds jersey. At the Canadian U18 Nationals, MacLean and Team Saskatchewan faced off against Team BC in the bronze medal game. Coincidentally, the BC roster featured future Reds teammates Myah Bowal and Kendra Woodland. 

A third generation player, MacLean wears the number 47 in recognition of her grandfather Paul’s birth year, a UNB competitor during the 1960s. In addition, her uncle Dax, starred on the UNB national championship team in 1998. Fast forward to 2022, and MacLean added another championship to her proud heritage, enjoying the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) title.

Along with the milestone of participating at the U Sports Nationals, MacLean amassed several individual accolades. Gaining recognition as the Reds Defensive Player of the Year Award, along with the prestige of the AUS version of the Award, this distinguished double affirmed her place as one of the greatest to wear the Reds jersey.

Considering that MacLean was among four Reds to capture AUS awards, including Jana Headrick (Community Service), Ashley Stratton (Most Sportsmanlike) and Sarah Hilworth (Coach of the Year), it emphasized the seismic shift in the conference balance of power.

In addition, she joined teammate Kendra Woodland on the AUS First-Team All-Stars.

“It was a great honour being recognized as the AUS Defensive Player of the Year. The league is full of so many good players that could have been named to this Award. Being able to play with and against them all season makes me a better player in every aspect.

I came to UNB with very little experience playing defense, so I give a lot of credit to my coach Pamela Pachal for my defensive abilities on the ice. She has taught me to take my defensive game to the next level.”

Entering the season with a focus towards the Reds reaching new summits, the unprecedented success attained brought a profound feeling of achievement. From the prestige of a place in the National rankings, to capturing the AUS regular season title, MacLean contributed in multiple facets, including solid playmaking abilities, best demonstrated by 16 assists.

The Reds enjoyed a sparkling 13-2-0 mark when MacLean recorded at least one point. Fittingly, her only goal of the season, one of five different skaters to score in a February 19th 5-0 shutout versus Mount Allison, allowed the Reds to climb into first place in the AUS standings, improving their record to 13-3-0-2

Improving with each successive season, hopes were high for a deep postseason run in 2022. Earning a national ranking during the regular season, representing an historic first since the program’s rebirth, signified an exciting step forward in the ambitions of a conference crown.

Defeating the St. Mary’s Huskies on March 6 to clinch the AUS regular season title, it set forth a tremendous run of momentum. Reaching the conference finals, a long dominant opponent was waiting. Facing off against the St. Francis Xavier X-Women, consistently in the conversation among the nation’s elites, the Reds battled through a scoreless first period, scoring twice in the successive periods to prevail by a 4-0 mark. Accentuating a dream season for MacLean, she logged an assist on the game’s final goal, scored by Melanie Drost.

“It was so special to be a part of the first-ever team to win an AUS championship for UNB. The girls that I came to UNB with in 2018 for our first season back as a program have become family to me over the past four years. The girls we have added since then have fit in so well.

The team we had this year is the closest, best group I have ever been a part of. Being able to make history and win a championship with them was the icing on the cake.”

Qualifying for Nationals in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, an historic first for the program, adding to the sense of achievement during a landmark time, the opening game represented a tremendous display of tenacity, coupled by a strong sense of unity. Facing off against the prominent McGill Martlets, who appeared in the gold medal game in 2017 and 2019, the early facets of the preliminary round matchup appeared to be a baptism of fire.

Facing a seemingly insurmountable 4-1 deficit after two periods of play, a pair of Reds award winners, Jana Headrick and MacLean, scored within 87 seconds early in the third, mounting a miracle. Adding to the heroics, MacLean assisted on the game-tying goal by Lillian (Lily) George. With Kendra Woodland a stone wall for the remainder of the period, a thrilling shootout broke the deadlock, Ashley Stratton scoring one of the biggest goals in Reds history.

Eventually playing for the bronze medal, the contest versus McGill demonstrated that the Reds were truly a national calibre team. Reflecting on the experience in Charlottetown, MacLean beamed with accomplished fulfillment. Beyond the glory of the comeback victory, one of the most dramatic ever seen at Nationals, the essence of belief, coupled with an indomitable spirit embodied the Reds brilliant season, simultaneously emphasizing an exceptional team culture that MacLean is proud to contribute towards.

“Reiterating how much we care about each other and our program, the game we played against McGill, our three-goal comeback in the third period, to win in the shootout, was definitely the highlight of my experience at Nationals.

There is nothing I enjoy more than playing the game I love with my best friends. Doing that at the highest level in the country was an amazing experience. Now we know what it takes to compete with the best.”

All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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