Sunday, March 15, 2015

Golden Bears Deny V-Reds

The #1 ranked Alberta Golden Bears shut down the high powered University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds en route to a 6-3 victory in the University Cup final tonight in Halifax. It is Alberta's record 15th National Championship.

The Golden Bears jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the 1st period and the V-Reds were never able to get over the hump. Dylan Willick scored at 3:05 of the 2nd period to cut the lead in half. Perhaps the turning point came late in the period when UNB couldn't do anything on back to back power plays and then Johnny Lazo scored with 3.6 seconds remaining to give Alberta a 3-1 lead heading into the 3rd. The V-Reds kept on battling back though. Philippe Maillet tipped a Jordan Murray shot at 7:55 to make it 3-2. Kruise Reddick made it 4-2 with Alberta's 2nd power play goal of the game at 11:12, but Adrian Robertson's fluttering shot made it 4-3 with 4:10 remaining. UNB was then awarded a late power play with a chance to tie the game, but a turnover led to a 2-on-0 break for Alberta and Levko Koper notched the shorthanded goal. Jordan Rowley capped the scoring with another shorthanded goal, this time into an empty net.

- UNB got a bit of a taste of their own medicine as they were out-shot 24-9 in the game, including 14-3 in the 3rd period. It has been a long time since the Varsity Reds weren't able to get at least 10 shots on goal in a game. Usually it is UNB who locks things down in the 3rd period, but not on this night.

- The story of the game, besides Alberta's defensive play and exceptional shot blocking, was the special teams. The Golden Bears went 2 for 5 on the power play and scored 2 shorthanded goals. UNB was 0 for 7 and didn't look particularly dangerous on any of them. They had a couple of power plays while trailing by a goal and couldn't take advantage.

- Attendance was 4404 on a snowy night in Halifax.

- Dylan Willick and Levko Koper were named the player's of the game.

- UNB is now 5-5 all-time in national finals, including 0-3 against Alberta.

- Jordan Murray and Cam Braes were named to the tournament all-star team.

- Guelph defeated UQTR 3-2 in overtime earlier today to win the bronze medal.

- While it is obviously a very disappointing end to the season for the Varsity Reds we should all be proud of the what they accomplished this season. They are an extremely young team who were playing a veteran Golden Bears team - many of whom played in last year's final. The fact that they finished 1st in the AUS in the regular season, won the AUS Championship, and made the National Championship game with so many players in their 1st or 2nd year is quite impressive and this learning experience should only serve them well moving forward. If there is one thing we can all be sure of, it's that Gardiner MacDougall and Co. will be doing all they can over the summer to make the V-Reds even stronger next season.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

UNB vs. Alberta Preview, Prediction, Poll

UPDATE: If anybody wants to send the team a message that will be posted in the locker room, please e-mail

It will be a fitting end to the CIS men's hockey season as the #1 seeded Alberta Golden Bears - ranked #1 in all 20 polls this year - will face the #2 seeded University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds, who were ranked 2nd in all but 6 polls, for the National Championship tomorrow at 6:30PM.

This will be the 10th meeting all-time between the two hockey powers, with 7 of the previous 9 coming on the national stage.

1995/1996: Lost 5-0 in exhibition at AUC
1996/1997: Won 4-3 in OT in national semi-final.
1997/1998: Won 5-2 in national semi-final.
1999/2000: Lost 5-4 in OT in national final.
2002/2003: Lost 8-2 in national bronze medal game.
2003/2004: Won 6-5 in OT in national semi-final.
2007/2008: Lost 3-2 in national final.
2008/2009: Won 6-3 at nationals.
2010/2011: Won 6-2 in exhibition at Clare Drake Arena in Alberta.

Overall: 5-4
University Cup: 4-3
Gold Medal Game: 0-2

Some interesting tidbits heading into tomorrows game:

- UNB has never beaten Alberta in a medal game.
- UNB has won National Championships in every odd-numbered year since 2007 (2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013).
- UNB has never won a National Championship while wearing their dark uniforms. They wore their home white jerseys in all 5 of their National Championship wins. As the lower seed tomorrow they will be wearing their red away jersey or black 3rd jersey.
- There have been four previous AUS/Canada West finals. Alberta defeated Moncton in 1999 and UNB in both 2000 and 2008. Saint Mary's beat the Golden Bears in 2010.
- The Varsity Reds and Golden Bears have accounted for 8 out of the last 10 National Championships. UNB won in 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013 while Alberta won in 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2014.

At this point everyone knows about Alberta and what they bring to the table. They are the dominant CIS program and considering not only the year they have had thus far, but the fact that they are defending University Cup Champions, they will easily be the toughest team UNB has faced all year. Perhaps the only time this season the V-Reds will be be underdogs.

Some key stats for Alberta this season include:

- CIS-best 24-3-1 record in the regular season and 4-0 playoff record.
- They led the country with 124 goals scored (UNB was 2nd with 118).
- They were 2nd with 56 goals allowed (UNB was 5th with 60).
- They led the country with 1155 shots on goal (UNB was 3rd with 1020).
- They were 2nd with a 25.7% power play percentage (UNB was 15th at 19.2%).
- They were 6th with a 88.1% penalty kill percentage (UNB was 10th at 84.3%).
- They led the country with 8 shorthanded goals (UNB was tied for 13th with 4).

Unlike Windsor and Guelph, who have good top-6 forwards and top-4 defenceman but weren't able to match UNB's depth up and down the line-up, the Golden Bears won't be at the same disadvantage. Alberta has quality major junior graduates at every spot in their line-up and had 10 different players contribute 10+ points this year. They are led offensively by Canada West MVP and 1st Team All-Canadian T.J. Foster (18 goals, 24 assists) and Canada West 1st Team All-Star Jordan Hickmott (19 goals, 21 assists) while also receiving contributions from forwards Brett Ferguson (27 points), Levko Koper (25), Cana West 2nd Team All-Star Kruise Reddick (22), and Canada West rookie of the year and CIS All-Rookie Team member Stephane Legault (21). CIS Defenceman of the Year and 1st Team All-Canadian Jesse Craige (19 points), Canada West 2nd Team All-Star Jordan Rowley (18), and Thomas Carr (16) are the catalysts from the back-end. In goal, they have rotated goaltenders much of the year with Kurtis Mucha (1.87 GAA, 0.917 GAA) most likely getting the call tomorrow night.

Obviously, the V-Reds will be in tough against the Golden Bears. However, there are a few things working in their favour (courtesy UNB supporter and historian Eric Drummie).

- The #1 seed has won 5 out of the 8 finals they have been in. The #2 seed, which UNB is, has won 6 out of their 7 appearances.
- 59% of the time the eventual winner has come from the host conference.
- 59% of the time the winner has played 3 games in 4 days (as UNB did this year). Only 41% of the time has a team won after playing three games in three days (which Alberta is looking to accomplish).
- 65% of the time the winner has played in the afternoon pool (like UNB this year).

When it comes down to it, this is going to be a very tough game for the V-Reds. The Golden Bears play a similar style to UNB - speed, quick transition from defence to offence, constant puck pressure, and a relentless fore-check with scorers up and down the line-up - but they might even be better at it. Just like any game between two evenly matched teams special teams and goaltending might be the difference. David Shantz needs to be on top of his game as the Golden Bears will undoubtedly generate more than than the 12-15 shots Windsor and Guelph did against the V-Reds. Shantz will need to make all of the easy saves and probably a few that he shouldn't make. On the other hand, UNB should look to get as many pucks as possible on the Alberta goal. Mucha had good numbers this year, but how much of that was a product of the team he plays on? Much like UNB goalies over the years, he probably isn't used to seeing 30+ shots a game. Of course UNB will need to remain disciplined as the Golden Bears power play is extremely dangerous. On paper Alberta has the better special teams so if UNB can at least keep it even that will go a long way to securing a victory. Having said that, while UNB hasn't seen a team like Alberta this year the same could also be said in reverse - the Bears haven't faced a team as good as the V-Reds either. At the end of the day, it is anyone's game. All I know is that it will be a fantastic game that will be close right to the end. 

What do you think?

Who wins: UNB or Alberta?

Poll Maker

Golden Bears Advance To Final

The University of Alberta Golden Bears once again showed why they are the best team in the country as they over matched the UQTR Patriotes 5-1 in this afternoon's University Cup semi-final in Halifax. This sets up a National Championship match-up between the #1 seeded Bears and #2 seeded Varsity Reds tomorrow night.

Just like last night the Bears got stronger as the game progressed as their relentless fore-check and speed was just too much for UQTR to contain for 60 minutes. They scored the lone goal in what was a fairly even played 1st period when Kruise Reddick lit the lamp just 1:14 into the contest. They then added a pair of late goals in the 2nd period, one at 15:39 on the power play and another at 18:58, which basically put the game away. Two more goals, sandwiched around UQTR's lone goal, in the 3rd period, including one into an empty net, rounded out the scoring. 

- Shots in the game were 42-17 for Alberta.

- UQTR was 1 for 4 on the power play. The Bears were 2 for 4. 

- Attendance was 3518.

- The Patriotes will face the Guelph Gryphons in tomorrow's bronze medal game at 2PM AST.

- As mentioned, Alberta and UNB will face-off for the National Championship tomorrow at 6:30PM AST. The game will be broadcast live on Sportsnet 360.

UNB In The National Final

The University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds will be in a familiar position tomorrow night - playing in the National Championship Game. It will be their 10th appearance in school history, including the 7th in the last 12 years. They will be looking for their 6th championship all-time.

Here is a breakdown of their previous 9 appearances:

1997: Lost to Guelph 4-3
1998: Defeated Acadia 6-3
2000: Lost to Alberta 5-4 in OT2
2004: Lost to St. FX 3-2 in OT
2007: Defeated Moncton 3-2 in OT
2008: Lost to Alberta 3-2
2009: Defeated Western Ontario 4-2
2011: Defeated McGill 4-0
2013: Defeated Saint Mary's 2-0

The V-Reds will be facing either Alberta or UQTR tomorrow night. Interestingly, the Golden Bears (7 games) and Patriotes (4 games) are the two most common University Cup opponents in V-Reds history. However, despite going 4-3 all-time against the Golden Bears at the University Cup, UNB has never beaten them in a title game (0-2). Also, they have never faced UQTR in a Championship game as all 4 previous meetings came in pool play with UNB winning 3 of the games.

V-Reds Move On To Finals

Philippe Halley led the way with 4 goals and the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds escaped with a 5-2 victory over the upstart Guelph Gryphons this afternoon at the University Cup in Halifax. UNB now moves on to their 10th National Championship game in school history where they will face either Alberta or UQTR tomorrow at 6:30PM AST.

After the Gryphons began the game with a couple of good shifts it was the Varsity Reds who struck just 1:45 into the game when Halley jumped on a loose puck in the crease and shoveled it in after Andrew D'Agostini's save of a Jordan Murray point shot took him out of position. Dana Fraser also got an assists on the goal. The V-Reds then took control of the game, holding a 10-1 shot advantage at one point, but the Gryphons took advantage of a UNB mistake in their own zone and were able to tie the game at 8:01. Colin Suellentrop reached up for a floating puck in front of the net when Seth Swenson leveled him, taking both players out of the play. Former Woodstock Slammer Nick Huard picked up the puck with no one near him and quickly fired it between David Shantz's legs. The game remained tied after one period of play with UNB out-shooting the Gryphons 15-4.

UNB went back up by a goal while on the power play 5:59 into the 2nd period when Cam Braes (Murray, Maillet) tipped a shot from the blue line for his 5th goal of the tournament. Once again Guelph had an answer, though, as Nicholas Trecapelli blasted a slap shot from the right circle that beat Shantz stick side for a power play goal at 7:33. The V-Reds responded almost as quickly when Maillet fed a beautiful saucer pass up and over a defenders stick on a 2-on-1 that Halley quickly snapped into the upper part of the net before D'Agostini could get across at 9:16. The period would play out without anymore scoring. Shots in the period were 18-7 for UNB.

The 3rd period was played pretty close to the vest with neither team generating much in way of offensive chances for the first 12 minutes or so. UNB had a golden opportunity to extend their lead with 6 minutes left when Cameron Brace, the trailer on a 3-on-1 rush, picked up a rebound and was all alone in front, but his shot was stopped by D'Agostini. Shortly afterwards Tyler Carroll was sent off for high-sticking, giving the Gryphons a chance to tie it up. The V-Reds came up with the clutch penalty kill and were able to control much of the play as time winded down, not allowing Guelph to pull their goalie. UNB was able to put the game away with just 1:05 remaining when Randy Gazzola made an excellent play at the boards near centre ice to keep the puck from being sent down the ice. After knocking down the puck with his body he broke into the Gryphons zone on a 3-on-1 with Cam Critchlow and Halley and out-waited the defender before finding Halley at the other side of the net for the easy tap-in goal. Halley added one more for good measure when he found the empty net from just inside the red line at 19:23. Shots in the period were 7-4 for UNB.

- R.D. Chisholm, Peter Trainor, and Francis Beauvillier all remained out of the line-up.

- UNB outshot the Gryphons 40-15 in the game.

- The Varsity Reds won 35 out of 61 face-offs with Dana Fraser (20 out of 27) doing the bulk of the work.

- Both teams were 1 for 2 on the power play in a game that was much more disciplined and less physical than what we have seen this weekend.

- Halley and D'Agostini were named the player's of the game.

- For the 2nd straight game the V-Reds found themselves in a close game into the 3rd period despite holding a significant edge in play, but for the 2nd straight game they were able to finally pull away at the end to make the game look more comfortable than it actually was.

- Chris Caissy took a knee to the face as he was falling to the ice and left the game for a brief period before eventually returning to the bench. Sportsnet reported that he broke his nose on the play.

- Colin Suellentrop was the only player for UNB not to register a shot on net.

- Halley tied Cam Braes and 6 others for the most goals scored in a University Cup game.

- Braes goal was his 5th all-time at the University Cup, tying Kyle Bailey and Lachlan MacIntosh for the 2nd most in school history. Only Daine Todd (6) has more.

- Attendance was 3564.

- The CIS game recap can be found here.

- The Gryphons will face the loser of this afternoon's Alberta/UQTR semi-final for the bronze medal tomorrow at 2PM.

- Of course the Varsity Reds await the winner of that game to see who they will face on the gold medal game tomorrow night. Game time is scheduled for 6:30PM AST and can be seen on Sportsnet 360.