The Gee-Gees men's hockey team are playing at the U SPORTS National Championship for the first time since 2004. The tournament is being held in Halifax from March 12-15 and the 2019-20 edition of the team has plenty of Maritime connections on the roster.
It starts behind the bench with head coach Patrick Grandmaître. The former St.FX X-Men captain is no stranger to the National Championship, as he went to three University Cup Finals during his career, winning it in 2004.
"Every time I go out east, it brings back a lot of good memories," said Grandmaître. "There's a lot of St. FX grads and alumni in Halifax. I'm going to get to see a lot of people I haven't seen in a long time."
Assistant coach Christian Gaudet was a four-year member of the QMJHL's Moncton Wildcats, spending his entire 258-game career with the franchise. He captained the team when they hosted the Memorial Cup in 2006, and won their first President's Cup in franchise history.
On the ice, the Garnet and Grey have a trio of alumni from the Dieppe Commandos of the Maritime Junior A Hockey League. Mathieu Newcomb (Grande-Digue, N.B.), Michael Poirier (Moncton, N.B.) and Cody Drover (Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L.) are all playing on the same team for the seventh straight season, as they committed to the Gee-Gees together in 2016.
"I've got a half dozen friends and family coming down," said Newcomb, who serves as an assistant captain for Ottawa. "Since I've been here for four years, some of them haven't had the chance to watch me play. I'm pretty excited and so are they to come and finally watch me."
"I've got my parents coming up and all four of my grandparents too," said Poirier. "It's a good way to end my university career, playing in front of them out east."
"I'm going to have a lot more family and friends than expected, at least 20 people," said Drover. "My billets are making the drive. A big group of my buddies are coming in, so that will be fun."
Drover made his QMJHL debut in Halifax in 2013-14. It will be a rewarding few days for Drover, whose parents attempted to make the trek to the Nation's Capital from Newfoundland for senior day in February, only to have their flight cancelled due to a snowstorm.
For Newcomb, Drover, and Poirier this will be their first official game in the Maritimes since their final season with the Commandos in 2015-16.
Dominic Cormier, who earned OUA All-Rookie Team honours for his outstanding freshman season, is another Moncton product.
"It's going to be good, especially for my parents," said Cormier. "Living far away and playing in Ottawa is obviously not easy. My parents don't get to see me play live a lot. It will be good for me to play back home too, so it should be a good experience for us all."
Forward Kyle Ward, hails from Sackville, N.B. He spent his junior career with a number of Eastern Canadian franchises, most notably a stint with the Saint John Sea Dogs that included a President's Cup championship in 2017.
"There's a few friends and family that haven't seen me play with the Gee-Gees yet, so they'll be able to watch me play," said Ward. "I haven't played out in the Maritimes for a couple of years now, so it's great to go back, especially with a big stage like this."
Other maritime connections include Port Williams, N.S. product John Deacon. Jacob Sweeney is second all-time in games played as a defenceman with the Moncton Wildcats, while Graham Hunt played five games with the team during the 2013-14 season.
Additionally, Daniel Hardie and Quinn O'Brien enjoyed stints with the Charlottetown Islanders, while assistant coach Nathan Chiarlitti starred for StFX for three seasons (2013-16) before transferring to McGill.