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Finding the fun again

CALGARY – By the time the final buzzer sounded on a two-game sweep last weekend, Matt Brown was the leading goal scorer in all of Canadian university hockey.

Matt Brown, of Upper Brookside, is tied for the nationwide lead in university hockey goal scoring. The fourth year forward is hoping to lead his Mount Royal Cougars homeward to Halifax for nationals at the end of this season.

The Upper Brookside native is four games into his fourth season with the Mount Royal Cougars of the Canada West division of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS). He’s already hit the back of the net five times.

At 24 years of age, he’s playing better than ever before.

“I’m feeling really good,” he said over the phone on Wednesday. “The team is doing really well and everything seems to be clicking right now.”

After starting the season with a pair of losses, the Cougars earned two wins against the University of Manitoba on Friday and Saturday. This weekend, they’ll face the best team in the country – the University of Alberta Golden Bears.

It’s been a long ride for the Cougars captain, one spanning nearly the entire length of the continent. Midway through his third season with the Moncton Wildcats, Brown was shipped to the Quebec Remparts. After putting up 10 points in 13 games to close the regular season, Brown struggled in the playoffs and into his 19-year-old season.

The year he turned 20, he was cut loose by the Remparts and headed west to play junior A in Cowichan Valley, B.C. It was there he found his game and helped turn a last-place team into a contender.

“The BCHL really put the fun back in the game for me,” he said. “I got to go there and take on a more offensive role and just enjoy it. I have the utmost respect for the Cowichan program.”

He was soon fielding offers from Mount Royal and the University of Prince Edward Island. After a year spent in the scenic valley on Vancouver Island, Brown wasn’t ready to head back east just yet.

“The decision wasn’t made hockey-wise. I wanted to keep the adventure going out west. I fell in love with the scenery in B.C. and I wasn’t ready to give it up yet.”

When Brown joined the team in 2012, MRU had just made the jump to the CIS – the highest level of amateur sports in Canada. Last season, he was named captain and the Cougars were the fifth-ranked team in the country by the end of the first week.

Brown went from being deemed a spare part in his last year of junior to being a central figure in the Cinderella story of a nation.

So what changed?

“I think I’m more mature, and that’s been a huge difference,” he said. “There’s also not as much of the unknown. When I went to Moncton, I really didn’t know what I was getting into. Now I have that experience, and a couple years of CIS hockey, so I feel comfortable.”

By the end of the year, Brown hopes a trip home is in order. Not for a vacation, but for the CIS national final, being hosted in Halifax this year. It’s a steep road, and one that must pass through the defending national champs at the University of Alberta. With momentum rolling into this weekend, Brown hopes to show the Golden Bears they mean business.

“There’s a really good vibe around the team right now,” he said. “With the skill level and the buy-in to the system here, it’s an exciting time to be a Cougar.”



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