Saturday, March 17, 2018

Heartbreak On Home Ice

Adam Stevens’ goal with 47 seconds remaining in the first overtime period lifted the #5 seeded St. FX X-Men over the #1 seeded University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds 5-4 in an epic contest this afternoon in University Cup semi-final action, ending the Varsity Reds bid for a three-peat.

The X-Men will now move on to face the winner of #2 Alberta and #6 Saskatchewan, which gets underway at 4PM, in tomorrow’s gold medal game. UNB will face the loser of that game in the bronze medal game.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Huskies Top Redmen

The #6 seeded Saskatchewan Huskies secured the last semi-final berth at the 2018 University Cup after getting past the #3 McGill Redmen 4-1 in a physical, hard-hitting affair tonight at the AUC.

The Huskies received goals from Michael Sofillas - on a tap-in at the side of the net 5-on-3 power play at 12:42 of the 1st period - and Connor Cox - from a sharp angle 1:03 into the 2nd period. The Redmen got back into it with a power play goal from Antoine Dufort-Plante on a goalmouth scramble at 17:37 of the 2nd period, setting up an exciting finish. However, the Huskies got a big insurance goal from Carson Stadnyk at 9:58 of the 3rd period and salted the game away with a Kohl Bauml empty netter with 65 seconds remaining.

- Shots in the game were 34-33 for McGill.

- Each team scored a power play goal. The Huskies had 4 opportunities to the Redmen's 5.

- There were a combined 84 penalty minutes in the game. This included 5 10-minute misconducts, all of which were handed out in the 3rd period.

- Both goalies earned player of the game awards. Taran Kozun - who is filling in for two-time U Sports Goaltender of the Year Jordon Cooke, who is injured - for the Huskies and Louis-Philip Guindon for the Redmen.

- Attendance was 2739.

- McGill's loss ends another disappointing showing from OUA teams at the University Cup. They have now gone 0-3 at each of the last three tournaments. Their last win came in 2015 when UQTR rallied for a 6-5 overtime win against Acadia.

- This is the 3rd straight year Saskatchewan will be playing in the semi-finals. They fell in an epic triple overtime game to St. FX in 2016 and of course lost 5-3 in the University Cup final to UNB last year.

- The Golden Bears beat the Huskies 5-2 and 5-1 on home ice to sweep the best 2-of-3 Canada West Final earlier this month. Unlike the AUS and OUA playoffs, in Canada West every game of a series is played at the home of the lower seeded team.

- Alberta won the season series against Saskwatchewan as well, winning 3 out of the 4 games.

- Tomorrow's semi-finals are now set and they not only feature a pair of regional rivalries, but also rematches from the conference finals. At 12PM it will be the UNB Varsity Reds versus the St. FX X-Men and then at 4PM Fredericton fans will get to see arguably the only rivalry in the country that is more heated when the Alberta Golden Bears face the Saskatchewan Huskies. Both games will be broadcast on Sportsnet 360.

UNB vs. St. FX: Preview, Prediction, Poll

The heated rivalry between the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds and St. FX X-Men will add yet another chapter tomorrow afternoon when the two battle in the national semi-final. Game time is 12PM and if you can't make it to the rink the game will be broadcast live on Sportsnet 360.

The stakes are clear for both teams. For the Varsity Reds - they are looking to make it to the University Cup final for a fourth consecutive season. For the X-Men - they are looking to rebound from last week's 2-0 series loss to the V-Reds in the AUS Final and do what UNB has done the last two year's, which is to make the final as the AUS runner-up.

The two teams have met twice previously at the University Cup, but this is the first time they will play prior to the final. Each team has won once and that win came in enemy territory. In 2004 St. FX stunned a sold out AUC crowd with a 3-2 double overtime win to capture their first ever national championship. In 2016 the Varsity Reds returned the favour when they emerged victorious 3-1 before a huge crowd in Halifax.

This is the 3rd straight year the Varsity Reds will be facing a fellow AUS team in the semi-finals. Much like 2016 against Saint Mary's and last year against Acadia, at this point there probably isn't too much each side doesn't know about the other. For UNB they will look to replicate what made them successful in the AUS Final, namely getting a lead, crashing the net and getting some ugly goals, executing on special teams, playing a solid three zone game, and getting strong goaltending. For the X-Men, it is much the same. Although they struggled in the AUS Final, one has to expect that they will be better in all facets of the game tomorrow with a trip to the University Cup final on the line. They will need Chase Marchand to be on his game as he will no doubt face a lot of rubber. They lived and died with his performance as well as that of their special teams all year. If both are in top form they will be tough to beat. Not to mention they should have the confidence of being the only opposing team to win in the AUC in the last two years.

Although the Varsity Reds will probably hold a significant advantage in shots on goal, expect a tight game that could go down as a classic when it is all said and done. At the end of the day, I believe the Varsity Reds are just a touch better than the X-Men this year. If this game was played in Nova Scotia it might be different, but the home-ice advantage will be just enough to give UNB a one or two goal game that will come right down to the wire.

Your turn - Who wins tomorrow's semi-final?

UNB or St. FX?

Varsity Reds
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Golden Bears Exact Revenge Against Axemen

The #2 seeded Alberta Golden Bears entered the 2018 University Cup as one of the favourites and they looked every bit the part this afternoon, at least for the first 50 minutes of the game. The Bears raced out to an 8-2 lead only to watch the Axemen score four times in the latter half of the 3rd period to make the final score a more respectable 8-6. The win avenges last year's 4-1 quarter-final loss and, more importantly, moves Alberta into the semi-finals for the first time in three years.

A pair of Riley Kieser goals - one just 13 seconds into the game and another at 13:16 - gave the Golden Bears an early 2-0 lead. Kyle Farrell responded for the Axemen just 16 seconds later to make it 2-1, which is how it would stay until the intermission.

A slew-footing penalty late in the 1st period put Alberta on a five minute power play and they finally connected 3:12 into the 2nd period courtesy Canada West MVP Luke Philp. That opened the floodgates a bit as the Golden Bears added another pair in short order - first by Cole Sanford at 5:26 and then a power play goal at 9:22. A Remy Giftopoulos power play goal at 15:46 cut the deficit to 5-2 before the end of the period.

The 3rd period was a wild one. Alberta again showed their quick-strike ability with goals from Trevor Cox at 2:31, Jamie Crooks on the power play at 4:31, and U Sports Defenceman of the Year Jason Fram at 6:46 to make it 8-2. To their credit, the Axemen did not quit. Cristiano Digiacinto scored at 11:56 and then they added three more in the final 63 seconds - from Chance Braid at 18:57, Boston Leier at 19:20, and Geoff Schemitsch at 19:43 - to turn what was a blowout to a final score that was much more indicative of the play.

- Shots in the game were 38-29 for Alberta.

- Alberta was without one of their regular forwards in Brandon Magee. Magee, who put up 24 points in 25 regular season games this season, was serving a suspension that carried over from the Canada West final.

- Kieser and Schemitsch were named their team's player of the game.

- Robert Steeves stopped 24 out of 32 shots before giving away to Dawson Carty for the final 13 minutes. Carty stopped all 6 shots sent his way. At the other end, Brendan Burke - son of former NHLer Sean Burke - made 23 saves on 29 shots.

- Acadia was 1 for 4 on the power play while Alberta connected 3 times on 4 tries.

- Attendance was 3063.

- The loss ended a run of 8 straight wins by AUS teams in quarter-final play at the University Cup. UNB, St. FX, and Saint Mary's all won their games in 2016, UNB, St. FX, and Acadia were victorious last season, and UNB and St. FX won yesterday.

- The Golden Bears move on to face the winner of tonight's game between the #3 McGill Redmen and #6 Saskatchewan Huskies in tomorrow afternoon's 4PM semi-final, which will be broadcast live on Sportsnet 360.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

V-Reds Demolish Stingers

The hallmark for the #1 seeded University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds all season has been their ability to get contributions from up and down the line-up. That was on full display tonight in their opening game of the 2018 University Cup, receiving goals from seven different players in a 8-1 dismantling of the #8 seeded Concordia Stingers. The win sets up a semi-final showdown versus rival St. FX at 12PM on Saturday.

After a fairly even opening handful of minutes, the Varsity Reds opened the scoring at the 9:00 mark of the 1st period when Chris Clapperton (Simpson, Murphy) jammed the puck in from the side of the net. Mark Simpson doubled the lead 2:46 later after he stripped the puck from a Stingers defenceman as he attempted to exit his own zone. Simpson turned back, took a few strides, and beat Marc-Antoine Turcotte with a shot just inside the far post. As the period wore on the V-Reds started to exert their dominance and were rewarded with another marker with 30 seconds remaining in the opening frame after Rnady Gazzola (Simpson, Bennett) let a loose a seeing-eye shot from the point that a eluded a screened Turcotte. UNB took the 3-0 lead into the intermission and held a 15-7 advantage in shots on goal.

The Varsity Reds were even more impressive in the 2nd period - out-shooting the Stingers 18-3 - but Turcotte stood on his head, answering every puck thrown his way to keep the deficit within somewhat striking distance after 40 minutes.

The 3rd period is when the wheels fell off for the Stingers. Due to an injury he suffered in the previous period, Turcotte was replaced by back-up Antoine Dagenais and it was is the Varsity Reds smelled blood in the water. To make matters worse, Dagenais' teammates didn't offer him much help when they took three penalties in a span of 1:13 early in the period. UNB connected not on one, not on two, but on all three opportunities to blow the game wide open. At 3:48 U Sports Rookie of the Year Kris Bennett (Boland, Gazzola) picked up a loose puck between Dagenais’ legs and knifed it in while on a 5-on-3 advantage. Then, after another Stingers penalty gave UNB a second two man advantage, Stephen Anderson (Clapperton, Bennett) flipped the puck up and in from in tight at 4:50. Matt Boudens (Goulet, Brace) capped the power play outburst 39 seconds later after driving the net and backhanding the puck in to make it a 6-0 game. The Stinger spoiled Alex Dubeau's shutout bid just 15 seconds later when newly-crowned U Sports Player of the Year Alexandre Beauregard deflecte a shot from the slot that beat Dubeau just under the crossbar. Goals from Alexandre Goulet (Caissy, Brace) - on a tap-in at 11:42 after Cameron Brace found him with a nice pass from behind the net - and Stephen Anderson - unassisted at 17:42 after stealing the puck from a defenceman and beating Dagenais with a deke on a breakaway - put the finishing touches on an impressive victory. Shots in the period were 19-7 for UNB.

- Peter Trainor and Oliver Cooper were both scratched.

- Shots in the game ended up 52-17.

- UNB's special teams picked right up from where they left off in the AUS Final. They went 3 for 7 on the power play and killed off all 7 of the Stingers chances.

- The Varsity Reds won 48 out of the 78 face-offs. Mark Simpson (16 out of 26), Dylan Willick (11 out of 18), and Alexandre Goulet (8 out of 13) all had strong nights at the dot.

- Simpson was an absolute beast tonight and was rewarded by being named the player of the game. Massimo Carozza picked up an assist on Beauregard's goal and took home the honour for the Stingers.

- Every member of the V-Reds registered a shot on goal.

- Attendance was a sell-out of 3374.

- The winner of the 50/50 took home over $3800.

- Beauregard’s goal snapped Alex Dubeau’s shutout streak at 129:19, dating back to Matt Needham’s 2nd period goal in game 1 of the AUS Final.
- UNB has outscored their opponents 29-8 thus far in 6 postseason games.

- The 8 goals scored are tied for the most by UNB in a University Cup game. They also did it 2013 against UQTR (8-3). The 7 goal margin of victory is their best ever.

- This is UNB's 7th consecutive University Cup victory since losing in the 2015 final to Alberta.

- Since losing 3-2 to Western at the 2012 University Cup, the Varsity Reds have steamrolled OUA opponents at the tournament. They have now reeled off 6 straight wins and have outscored the opposition 37-10.

- This is the 15th consecutive time UNB has won their opening game at the University Cup.

- The Varsity Reds will now have a day off before they renew their rivalry with the #5 St. FX X-Men in the semi-finals on Saturday at 12PM in what is sure to be a heated contest. The game will be broadcast live on Sportsnet 360.

- Tomorrow's action includes the #2 Alberta Golden Bears facing the #7 Acadia Axemen at 1PM and perhaps the most intriguing match-up, the #3 McGill Redmen tangling with the #6 Saskatchewan Huskies at 7PM. The two winners will face off in the other semi-final on Saturday, scheduled for 4PM.