Friday, February 27, 2015

UNB In The AUS Finals, Against Acadia, Predictions

- With their 6-3 victory last night over the St. FX X-Men in the 5th and deciding game of the AUS semi-finals the Varsity Reds have moved on to their 15th AUS Finals appearance since 1973, and 9th under current head coach Gardiner MacDougall. Here is how they have fared historically:

1984: Defeated Moncton 2 games to 0
1993: Lost to Acadia 2 games to 0
1994: Lost to Acadia 2 games to 0
1997: Defeated Acadia 2 games to 0
1998: Defeated Acadia 2 games to 1
2000: Defeated Acadia 3 games to 1
2003: Defeated St. FX 3 games to 1
2006: Lost to Acadia 3 games to 0
2007: Lost to Moncton 2 games to 0
2008: Defeated Saint Mary's 2 games to 0
2009: Lost to Saint Mary's 2 games to 1
2011: Defeated St. FX 3 games to 2
2012: Defeated Moncton 3 games to 0
2013: Defeated Saint Mary's 2 games to 1

Overall: 23-17, 9 series wins and 5 series losses
Under MacDougall: 14-11, 5 series wins and 3 series losses

- UNB's 9 AUS titles since 1984 are the most in the conference, ahead of the 6 won by both Moncton and Acadia.

- UNB's 13 AUS titles all-time puts them in a 2nd place tie with Saint Mary's, well behind the 24 won by St. FX.

- This will be the 12th time since 1984 the V-Reds and Axemen have met in the playoffs, including the 6th time since MacDougall became coach. Acadia is MacDougall's 2nd most frequent playoff opponent after St. FX (8 series). Interestingly, only one of the previous 5 meetings has taken place in the finals.

Here is the rundown:

1984: Won 2 games to 1 in semi-finals
1993: Lost 2 games to 0 in finals
1994: Lost 2 games to 0 in finals
1997: Won 2 games to 0 finals
1998: Won 2 games to 1 in finals
2000: Won 3 games to 1 in finals
2001: Won 2 game to 1 in quarter-finals
2005: Lost 2 games to 0 in semi-finals
2006: Lost 3 games to 0 in finals
2009: Won 3 games to 0 in semi-finals
2011: Won 3 games to 1 in semi-finals

Overall: 17-13, 7 series win and 4 series losses
Under MacDougall: 8-7, 3 series wins and 2 series losses
In Finals: 7-9, 3 series wins and 3 series losses 

- However, like we said against St. FX, none of the what you just read means anything come Monday night. The Axemen battled UNB all year for the top spot in the conference, ultimately finishing 3 points back with a 20-5-3 record, and both teams spent much of the year ranked in the top-3 nationally. Acadia was 3rd in the league in goal scored (111, 7 back of UNB) and 4th in goals allowed (76 to UNB's 60). However, they have a great power play (2nd at 20.9%), a good penalty kill (4th at 82.5%). and plenty of experience thanks to last year's AUS title and University Cup appearance. They also feature 4 of the top 10 scorers in the league in Brett Thompson (2nd with 38 points including league-leading 19 goals), Mike Cazzola (6th with 32 points), rookie Zach Franko (8th with 30 points), and reigning CIS player of the year Liam Heelis (10th with 26 points). High scoring defenceman Chris Owens (20 points in 25 games) is also someone the V-Reds need to keep a close eye on.

The Axemen took 3 out of the 4 meetings between the two teams this year, with 3 of the games going into overtime. They won 4-3 in OT at home on October 24th, 4-3 in OT at the AUC on November 15th, and 4-1 in Wolfville on January 24 before the V-Reds got a slight measure of revenge with a 2-1 OT victory in Fredericton on January 30th.

Overall, expect this series to be just as tight as the series against the X-Men. These two teams are very close, as the regular season meetings showed, and it is unlikely UNB will be able to out-shoot the Axemen or control play to quite the same degree that they did against St. FX. Once again, special teams will be key. The V-Reds got by the X-Men despite an ineffective power play due in large part to an exceptional penalty kill. Just like I said in the semi-final preview, the key for the Varsity Reds will be to keep the special teams play fairly even and have goaltender David Shantz make all of the saves he needs to. It will also be important to contain Acadia's top two lines as their top 5 goal scorers accounted for 64 goals this year, or 58% of their offense. By comparison, UNB only got 52 goals (44% of their offense) from their top 5 goal scorers. The V-Reds have a much more balanced and deeper offense, as evident by having 13 different players score at least 5 goals this year compared to only 7 for Acadia, and that could be a significant advantage as they have a number of guys who have proven that they can score at any given time. The 3rd and 4th lines could play a vital role in the outcome of this series. In the end, I believe that the Varsity Reds balance and depth, to go along with their relentless forecheck, will wear down the Axemen just enough to lead UNB to a narrow series victory.


Now it's your turn. Who do you got?

Who Will Win The AUS Championship

UNB in 2
UNB in 3
Acadia in 2
Acadia in 3
Poll Maker
Special thanks to the RedSea Database

Thursday, February 26, 2015

UNB Outlasts X-Men To Advance

The University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds advanced to the AUS Final after a 6-3 victory over the visiting St. FX X-Men tonight at the AUC in a game that they never trailed. More importantly, the V-Reds have also clinched a berth at the University Cup in Halifax next month, returning to the tournament after a one year absence. 

UNB got on the board first just 6:41 into the contest when Alex Wall circled behind the X-Men goal, back out to the blue line, and then found Dana Fraser near the St. FX bench for a shot that got past Drew Owsley. Philippe Halley, who had to perform some painful looking acrobatics to keep the play onside, received a much deserved secondary assist on the goal. A potential turning point occurred just under three minutes later when Brad Cuzner was given a 5-minute major and game misconduct for charging against Halley, which sent the V-Red forward to the dressing room for the rest of the period. With a chance to put the game away early the opportunity turned out to be a nightmare as not only did UNB fail to generate much in the way of offense, the X-Men tied the game on a breakaway goal just under the crossbar by Adam Stevens at 12:51. However, in a series that has been defined by the X-Men's quick response offense it was the V-Reds who answered only 1:09 later when Philippe Maillet (Braes, Suellentrop) was camped in front and took a nice pass from behind the net from Braes and quickly put it 5-hole on Owsley. The physical period continued to take its toll on UNB as defenseman Adrian Robertson took a hard, legal hit into the boards behind his own net and never returned. The period would end with UNB leading 2-1 and holding a 15-6 advantage in shots.

The V-Reds were able to extend their lead 4:21 into the 2nd period when Randy Gazzola flipped the puck out of his own end and found Matt Boudens, who was joined by Dylan Willick as well as Cameron Critchlow, who just stepped out of the penalty box, for a 3-on-1 that was executed to perfection. Boudens patiently waited as Willick drove the net and took the defenceman out of the play before sliding a pass across to Critchlow for the one-timer goal. The X-Men once again had a quick answer. After UNB iced the puck St. FX won the ensuing face-off and only seconds later ex-Saint John Sea Dog Michael Kirkpatrick roofed the puck up and over David Shantz's shoulder. The goal cut the lead to 3-2 just 90 seconds after UNB scored. The V-Reds were able to restore their two goal lead at 9:27 thanks to a persistent shift by the top line. After a number of opportunities from in close in quick succession it was Halley (Maillet, Gazzola) who was finally able to slide the puck past a sprawling Owsley for the "garbage" goal. As we have seen time and time again, the X-Men would not go down easily. They once again made it a one goal game at 15:11 when Gabriel O'Connor flipped the puck into the top right corner from in close. That would finally be the end of the scoring in a period in which UNB out-shot St. FX 13-8.

As expected, the 3rd period proved to be nerve-wracking, even as UNB held the territorial advantage and controlled the puck the majority of the time. They were finally rewarded at 10:02 after a great forecheck by Chris Caissy forced a turnover behind the X-Men net. He skated out in front and threw a pass across the crease to Matt Boudens. Even though Boudens had a defender draped all over him he was able to find the puck and backhand it into the net before Owsley could get across to make it 5-3. The V-Reds successfully killed a penalty a few minutes later in what proved to be the X-Men's last great opportunity to get back into the game. St. FX pulled Owsley with a couple minutes remaining but it quickly backfired when Rob Mignardi chipped the puck out to Dylan Willick in the neutral zone. Willick only had one defender in front of him and a quick move to go wide gave him a clear shooting lane. He made no mistake in finding the empty cage from just outside of the blue line. Shots favoured UNB 12-7 in the period and 40-21 in the game.

- UNB made a few line-up changes for the game. R.D. Chisholm replaced Matt Petgrave and Rob Mignardi returned from his one game suspension, replacing Francis Beauvillier. Peter Trainor was once again out.

- Boudens, Wall, and Halley were the game's three stars.

- After a slow start to the series the top line of Fraser, Maillet, and Halley all had a goal in the game. They combined for 5 points on the night.

- UNB won 40 out of 70 face-offs with Willick winning 14 out of the 21 he took.

- Robertson did return to the ice at the end of the game for the celebration.

- Attendance was 3011.

- UNB went 0 for 2 on the power play. Although they struggled mightily with the man advantage in the series (2 for 21 with both goals coming in the first game), they were absolutely outstanding in shutting down St. FX's power play. The V-Reds killed off all 6 X-Men power plays tonight and only allowed one goal on 21 chances in the series.

- UNB out-shot St. FX 177-100 in the series.

- The V-Reds opponent in the best-of-3 AUS Final will be the Acadia Axemen. Acadia defeated Saint Mary's 3-2 in game 5 of their series tonight in Wolfville to also clinch a berth in the University Cup.

- It is a fitting match-up as the teams finished 1st and 2nd in the regular season this year. Acadia took 3 out of the 4 meetings with 3 of the games going to overtime.

- Before tonight there had been only 4 series in AUS history go to a 5th and deciding game. Interestingly, in all four previous instances the 5th game went into overtime with the home team only winning once (UNB against St. FX in 2011).

- It appears that game 1 of the AUS Final will be Monday night at the AUC. Game 2 will be Wednesday in Wolfville and game 3, if necessary, will be Friday night back in Fredericton. All games are scheduled for 7PM puck drop.

Monday, February 23, 2015

UNB In Winner Take All Games

On Thursday night the Varsity Reds and St. FX X-Men will face-off in the 5th and deciding game of their semi-finals series. Since Gardiner MacDougall became UNB's head coach they have played in 7 such games, compiling a record of 5-2 (4-1 at home). Here is the breakdown:

2013: Defeated Saint Mary's 2-0 in game 3 of Finals
2011: Defeated St. FX 5-4 OT in game 5 of  Finals
2009: Lost 5-1 to Saint Mary's in game 3 of  Finals
2006: Defeated St. FX 9-3 in game 3 of Quarter-finals
2003: Defeated St. Thomas 4-1 in game 3 of Semi-finals
2001: Lost to St. FX 5-4 OT2 in game 3 of Semi-finals.
2001: Defeated Acadia 3-1 in game 3 of Quarter-finals

X-Men Force Game 5

The St. FX X-Men staved off elimination for a second straight night with a 4-2 victory over the visiting University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds tonight in Antigonish. The best-of-5 semi-final series is now tied at two games apiece.

The stories of the game was the play of X-Men goaltender Drew Owsley (39 saves), the X-Men penalty killing (5 for 5 with a number of blocked shots), and the X-Men's ability to quickly counter each time UNB scored (scored two minutes after the V-Reds tied the game at 1 and then 1:31 after UNB tied it 2-2).

St. FX scored the only goal of the 1st period courtesy Steve Kuhn just 2:30 into the game. That's how the game would stand until Chris Caissy (Murray, Suellentrop) tied it 3:21 into the 2nd period with his first goal of the year. As mentioned, the X-Men responded only two minutes later to retake the lead. At 16:59 the V-Reds tied it again when Dana Fraser (Maillet, MacDougall) was all alone in the slot to snap the puck past Owsley, but the X-Men answered with what turned out to be the game winning goal at 18:30 of the period. Michael Kirkpatrick added some insurance with a beautiful shot off the cross-bar and in 7:44 into the 3rd period. 

- Shots in the game were 41-14 for UNB with period totals of 10-6, 13-5, 18-3.

- Chris Caissy replaced Rob Mignardi (suspension due to 10 minute misconduct last night) in the line-up. Peter Trainor and R.D. Chisholm remained out.

- St. FX blocked 21 shots in the game to 9 for UNB.

- This is the 2nd straight playoff series between these two teams that has gone the full 5 games. In 2011 UNB defeated St. FX 5-4 in OT in game 5 to win the AUS Championship. UNB fans will hope for a similar result Thursday night.

- That series was the only 5 game series UNB has played in under Gardiner MacDougall, and their only one since at least since 1982 when records became available.

- St. FX has won 7 out of their last 12 playoff games against UNB dating back to 2010.

- The other semi-final series resumes tomorrow night in Halifax as Saint Mary's tries to finish off the Acadia Axemen. The Huskies won 4-0 last night to go up 2 game to 1 in the series.

- Game 5 goes 7PM Thursday night at the AUC.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

X-Men Push Series To Game 4

The University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds failed to close out the St. FX X-Men in game 3 of their best-of-5 semi-final series as they dropped a 3-1 decision tonight in Antigonish.They now lead the series 2 games to 1.

Philippe Halley (Carroll, Petgrave) gave the V-Reds a 1-0 lead at 17:19 of the 1st period, but Ted Stephens tied the game shortly afterwards, with 51 seconds left in the period, and Michael Kirkpatrick gave the X-Men a lead they would never relinquish just 1:07 into the 2nd period. An empty net goal by Eric Locke in the final minute rounded out the scoring.

Shots in the game favoured UNB 20-18, although they never really got much going offensively until the latter part of the 3rd period.

The turning point in the game may have been late in the 2nd period when UNB received a 4 minute power play. Not only did they fail to score, they didn't generate a single shot on goal as the Varsity Reds power play was underwhelming for the 2nd consecutive game.

UNB will get another chance to finish the series tomorrow night back in Antigonish. Game time is 7PM.