Thursday, May 24, 2018

Regular Season Schedule Released

With the hot stove beginning to heat up, the AUS released the 2018-2019 regular season schedules for their winter sports today, including men's hockey.

Here is how the Varsity Reds schedule for the upcoming season:

Friday, September 28th vs. UPEI
Saturday, September 29th at Moncton
Friday, October 12th vs. Moncton
Saturday, October 13th at UPEI
Friday, October 19th at Acadia
Saturday, October 20th at Saint Mary's
Friday, October 26th vs. Acadia
Saturday, October 27th vs. Saint Mary's
Tuesday, October 30th at Moncton
Saturday, November 3rd vs. UPEI
Friday, November 9th vs. St. FX
Saturday, November 10th vs. Dalhousie
Friday, November 16th at St. FX
Saturday, November 17th at Dalhousie
Friday, November 23rd vs. Saint Mary's
Saturday, November 24th vs. Acadia
Friday, November 30th at Saint Mary's
Saturday, December 1st at Acadia
Friday, January 4th vs. Saint Mary's
Saturday, January 5th vs. Acadia
Friday, January 11th at Dalhousie
Saturday, January 12th at St. FX
Wednesday, January 16th vs. Moncton
Friday, January 18th at UPEI
Friday, January 25th at Dalhousie
Saturday, January 26th at St. FX
Wednesday, January 30th at Moncton
Saturday, February 2nd vs. UPEI
Friday, February 8th vs. St. FX
Saturday, February 9th vs. Dalhousie

A few observations after looking over the schedule:

- All games are scheduled for a 7PM start with the exception of the home game against Acadia on Saturday, November 24th which is slated for a rare 4PM puck drop.

- All games will be played on Friday or Saturday except for three games against Moncton - Tuesday, October 30th on the road (which was most likely moved up a day to avoid falling on Halloween), Wednesday, January 16th at home, and Wednesday, January 30th in Moncton. 

- Once again they will play 18 games (9 home/9 away) prior to the Christmas break and 12 (6 home/6 away) after.

- UNB will face each of the other 6 teams five times each. They will have the extra home game against UPEI, Saint Mary's, and Acadia while playing an extra road game against Moncton, Dalhousie, and St. FX.

- The AUS season opener goes on Wednesday, September 26th with UPEI hosting Moncton.

- For the Varsity Reds, their home (and season) opener will take place on September 28th against UPEI. This is the earliest start to the regular season since at least 1966. The V-Reds are currently riding a 7 game winning streak in season openers and a 29 game winning streak in home openers. They have also won 14 home games in a row against the Panthers.

- In a strange quirk, UNB/UPEI/Acadia are all off the following weekend, which is the Thanksgiving long weekend, while the other four teams all see action on Friday, October 5th. Typically Thanksgiving weekend is when the V-Reds, along with other AUS teams, travel to play NCAA teams. However, when the 30 game schedule was introduced a rule was implemented prohibiting teams from playing exhibition games in the middle of the regular season. This means team can only play exhibition games before the season begins or over the Christmas break so it will be interesting to see if that rule has been changed this year or if there just won't be any AUS/NCAA games.

- The V-Reds have two stretches of three straight home games as well as stretches of three straight and four straight road games.

- Much like last year there are a number of "rematches" scheduled. There are four instances - all in the first half - where UNB will play the same two teams in consecutive weekends.

- The UNB/St. FX rivalry will have to wait a while to be renewed. The two foes don't face each other until November 9th at the AUC. This will be the V-Reds 11th game of the season.

- The Varsity Reds will complete their season series against Acadia and Saint Mary's during the first weekend after Christmas. This will complete a stretch of 6 straight games against the two dating back to the end of the first half. At that point they will have played exactly half of their schedule up to that point (10 out of 20 games) against either the Axemen or Huskies.

- Meanwhile, they will have only played Dalhousie and St. FX twice each by then.

- For the second straight year they will host the X-Men in the second to last game of the regular season. It would be shocking if that game did not have serious playoff implications.

- The regular season concludes for all teams on Saturday, February 9th. UNB will host Dalhousie that night.

- The playoff format will be the same as the last number of years with a pair of best 2-of-3 quarter-finals, best 3-of-5 semi-finals, and a best 2-of-3 final.

- The AUS will have two berths at the 2019 University Cup, which is being hosted by the University of Lethbridge from March 14th to 17th.

- The Varsity Reds women's team will play their first regular season game in 3892 days when they host Mount Allison on Saturday, October 13th at 7PM at the AUC.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Offseason Update

While it has been slow beginning to the offseason in terms of news, there have been a few notes of interest thus far:

- At last month's Senior Appreciation and Awards Ceremony the team handed out a number of accolades. These included Hardest Worker (Kris Bennett), Most Improved (Tristan Pomerleau), Top G.R.I.T. (Mike Thomas), Most Dedicated (Christopher Clapperton), Top Efficiency (Bennett), Unsung Hero (Dylan Willick), Top Defensive Player (Mark Simpson), and Top Defenceman (Randy Gazzola and Matt Murphy).

- The four graduating seniors were also honoured with forwards Dylan Willick, Mike Thomas, and Chris Caissy and defenceman Colin Suellentrop being welcomed into the UNB Hockey Fellows Society. While Willick and Thomas have used up all five years of their eligibility, Caissy and Suellentrop have opted to move on after four years.

- Trey Lewis will also not return after having signed a contract to play for the Brest Albatros in France.

- These five departures, in addition to playing last season two players under the 22 player roster cap, means the Varsity Reds could have up to seven new players in their line-up next season. One of these - forward Patrick Watling - was already announced in September.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Willick Signs With Railers

Varsity Reds team captain Dylan Willick has agreed to terms with the ECHL's Worcester Railers, the team announced earlier this week.

The 5th year forward joins the Railers - an affiliate of the NHL's New York Islanders - after posting 58 points (28 goals, 30 assists) and a +45 rating in a school record-tying 138 regular season games.

Playing in his first professional game on Friday night against the Brampton Beats, Willick - wearing 42 instead of his usual 9 - picked up an assist in a 3-2 victory. He notched his first career professional goal the next night against the Beast when he opened the scoring after picking up a loose puck in the defensive zone and went in all alone, putting the puck top corner for a shorthanded tally. Worcester would go on to a 4-1 win.

Willick is one of two Varsity Reds players who have used up all five years of their eligibility with Mike Thomas being the other.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

University Cup Wrap-Up: V-Reds Win Bronze, X-Men Lose Gold

The 2018 University Cup concluded this morning and afternoon at the AUC with the bronze medal and gold medal games.

This morning in a chippy bronze medal game the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds defeated the Saskactchewan Huskies 5-4 in overtime.

- Much like in their semi-final game against Alberta the Huskies got out to a 2-0 lead on goals at 6:08 and 16:22 of the opening period. A Matt Murphy (Simpson, McIvor) shorthanded goal off of the rush in the final minute got UNB back within one heading into intermission.

- Saskatchewan restored their two goal advantage early in the 2nd period only to see the V-Reds storm back for three goals in short order to take the lead. At 4:29 Tyler Boland (Goulet, Brace) picked the top corner on a 3-on-1 rush to make it 3-2, then at 6:32 Alexandre Goulet (Brace, Pomerleau) beat Huskies goalie Taran Kozun clean with a wrist shot from the slot to tie, and 25 seconds later Olivier LeBlanc (Murphy, Anderson) let shot go from the point through traffic that hit the post and went in. UNB would hold the lead for about ten minutes until Carson Stadnyk batted the puck out of mid-air from the side of the net to tie it 4-4, which is how it would stay until overtime.

- At 4:14 of the extra session Mark Simpson threw a pass from the corner out front and Goulet just got enough of the puck to tip it into the far side of the cage to give the V-Reds the win. Tristan Pomerleau also assisted on the game winning goal.

- Shots in the game were 38-22 for UNB.

- Despite there being 25 penalties called for 66 minutes in the game, neither team scored a power play goal. UNB went 0 for 9 and Saskatchewan was 0 for 6.

- Goulet (2 goals, 1 assist) and the Huskies Levi Cable (1 goal, 1 assist) were the players of the game.

- The Varsity Reds won 45 out of 77 face-offs. Simpson was 21 for 27 on the day.

- Mark Simpson was named to the all-tournament team.

- Attendance was 2583, which was impressive given the 10AM puck drop.

- UNB improves to 6-0 all-time versus Saskatchewan with every meeting occurring at the University Cup.

- UNB finishes the season with a combined record of 36-3-5 record. This includes a 24-2-4 conference record, 5-0 in the playoffs, 2-0-1 at the University Cup and 5-1 in exhibition play. This is the fewest regulation losses they have ever had in a season. By comparison, they were 35-7-3 last season and 37-6-1-2 in 2016.

- Just a phenomenal accomplishment by this year's team given how much talent they lost after last season and how this was considered to be a "rebuilding" year. There is certainly lots to look forward to moving forward.

- The V-Reds have finished 3rd, 1st, 1st, and 2nd at their last four University Cup tournaments. They will be looking to medal for a 5th straight time next season when the tournament heads to Lethbridge, Alberta.

- In the Gold Medal game the St. FX X-Men let an early 2-0 lead get away from them in a 4-2 loss to the Alberta Golden Bears. Daniel Robertson and Michael Clarke scored for the X-Men in the first 8:52 of the game, but Alberta tied it up before the end of the period with goals from Stephane Legault and Luke Philp 39 seconds apart. Will Tomchuk's goal at 4:18 of the 2nd period proved to be the championship winner with Jamie Crook's empty netter with 1:28 left providing the insurance.

- This is Alberta's record 16th national title.

- Shots were 27-26 for the Golden Bears.

- The two goaltenders - Chase Marchand for the X-Men and Zach Shawchenko - were named the players of the game.

- St. FX went 1 for 6 on the power play, but failed to convert on a pair of 2nd period 5-on-3's. Alberta went 0 for 4.

- Attendance was a sell-out of 3374 although there were a noticeable number of empty seats visible. The actual attendance was probably closer to 2800-3000.

- St. FX is now 1-4 all-time in championship games. Alberta is 16-5.

- Only 6 months until the 2018-2019 season begins!

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 semi-final contest this afternoon at the University Cup, ending the Varsity Reds bid for a three-peat.

- Scoring for the Varsity Reds were Chris Caissy, Tyler Boland, Chris Clapperton, and Mark Simpson.

- The V-Reds went ahead 1-0 early in the game on Caissy's power play goal before giving up two quick ones shortly afterwards from Anthony Difruscia and Santino Centorame. Boland's power play goal late in the 1st period tied it at 2-2 after one period of play.

- After dominating the 2nd period Chris Clapperton finally broke through in the final minute with UNB's third power play goal of the game, giving the home side a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.

- The X-Men capitalized on their own power play chances in the 3rd period, including a pair of 5-on-3's and a 5 minute major to Olivier LeBlanc, to grab a 4-3 lead. Scoring for St. FX were Holden Cook and Cole MacDonald. Mark Simpson provided the equalizer when he banged in a rebound from the doorstep with just over five minutes remaining in regulation. This set the stage for an overtime period that saw the V-Reds generate the majority of quality scoring chances until the X-Men capitalized on a scramble in front of Alex Dubeau.

- Shots in the game were 46-29 for UNB.

- St. FX went 3 for 7 on the power play. The Varsity Reds were 3 for 6.

- Steven and Clapperton were the player's of the game.

- Attendance was a sell-out of 3374.

- This is the second time St. FX has dashed the V-Reds title hopes in overtime at the AUC. They won their lone title in 2004 with a 3-2 double overtime victory over UNB.

- 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.