Monday, March 16, 2009

SMU 3 - UNB 2

It was a different Saint Mary’s Huskies team Sunday night at the Halifax Forum, as they came out from the opening whistle with an intensity that had the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds penned in their own zone for most of the game’s first ten minutes, thanks to key face off wins, hustle, and three consecutive SMU power plays.  UNB goalie Travis Fullerton (Riverview, NB) was the difference in the early going, but SMU netminder Brandon Verge (Fall River, NS) was the player of the game as the Huskies withstood the eventual V-Reds surge to hold on for a 3-2 win and force a deciding game 3 for the AUS men’s hockey championship Wednesday night in Fredericton.

               The biggest crowd of the season in Halifax, 3248, saw the Huskies halt UNB’s six game win streak, including four straight victories in the playoffs.  Special teams were a big factor in a game called tightly by referee Mark Hulshof. UNB was 0 for 9 on the power play on the night while SMU was 1 for 5 with the man advantage.

               After killing off three penalties in the early going, and Fullerton keeping UNB in the game, the Varsity Reds scored what they thought was a goal on their own power play at 14:44.  Rookie defenceman Jonathan Harty (Oromcto, NB) had pinched from the point to the slot and reached up through a crowd and pulled a rebound high out of the air down to the ice, seemingly to his stick, and over to John Scott Dickson (Barrie, ON) who banged in the puck past Verge.  However, after talking with his linesmen the referee waved off the goal, ruling that Harty had gloved ahead the puck.  That was UNB’s best scoring opportunity, as the Varsity Reds were outshot 19-6 in the first period, a testament to the pressure exerted by the desperate Huskies.

               UNB’s bad luck continued in the second period, when on the power play David Bowman (St. Catharines, ON) had his point shot clang off the crossbar at 3:12.  The game’s first goal came midway through the period at 10:31 as SMU’s conference-best power play finally cashed in, with the AUS’s point leader Marc Rancourt (Gloucester, ON) at the back door to bang in the rebound from an Andrew Hotham (Barrie, ON) point shot.  UNB outshot SMU 13-7 in the middle period, enhanced by their five power play opportunities.

               UNB had some good pressure in the early minutes of the third period, but a seemingly innocent play cost them a second goal.  SMU’s Cam Fergus (Brandford, ON) entered the UNB zone one-on-one against UNB captain Dustin Friesen (Waldheim, SK).  As Friesen steered Fergus towards the corner the SMU forward let loose a quick wrist shout around Friesen that fooled Fullerton, who was visibly upset after the goal light went on at 5:24.  The turning point of the game was probably just over six minutes later, when SMU’s Ryan Rorabeck (Oshawa, ON) was assessed a four minute double-minor penalty for high sticking Luke Gallant (Bedford, NS) in the neutral zone. SMU’s aggressive penalty kill and Verge’s stellar work in nets foiled the Varsity Reds attack.   A minute after the power play expired UNB finally got on the scoreboard when Kevin Henderson (Toronto, ON) won the faceoff back to Friesen who found the inside of the far post with his one-timer.  However that momentum was squelched two minutes later by a flukey Huskies goal, when Chris Morehouse (Amherst, NS) fired a puck from the corner that appeared to hit a UNB skate as it deflected past Fullerton.  UNB didn’t get an opportunity to pull their goalie until the last 29 seconds, and Ryan Seymour (Fredericton, NB) pulled UNB within one goal with his wrist shot from the slot with 4 seconds left on the clock.  UNB won the final faceoff at centre ice, but couldn’t get another shot on net before time expired, and the huge crowd released their breath in a loud cheer.  SMU edged UNB 14-12 in shots in the third period, and 40-31 in the game thanks to their strong first period.  The third and deciding game for the AUS championship goes Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. at the Aitken University Centre in Fredericton.



Anonymous said...

SMU obviously has no respect for UNB's Power-Play as is evident in the 0 for 9 UNB finished with. UNB doesn't need to practice anything in the next two days - they're in shape and they've played enough 5-on-5, so they may as well practice the PP. I'd like to see more shots and driving the net on a 'signal' - anything is better then watching the merry-go-round.

GoRedsGo said...

IMO, for as bad as UNB played, which I don't think was as bad as a lot of fans are suggesting, they were in this game until the very end.

Yes, they went 0-9 with the man advantage and yes, Fullerton gave up 2 questionable goals but look at the positives.

SMU dominated UNB in the 1st period, which obviously was to be expected as they were facing elimination, and still UNB managed to escape with a scoreless tie... much to be credit of Fullerton. UNB, as well, contained the best PP in the country, allowing SMU only 1 goal on 5 attempts.

Think about it... if it wasn't for a disallowed goal, a hit crossbar, and a few unlucky bounces, we'd be talking right now about UNB being the #1 seed at Nationals, but hey… that's hockey.

For me, in order for UNB to win Game 3, they've got to be better 5-on-5 and they've got to win more faceoffs. UNB has struggled on the PP all year so why would we expect that to be any different in this series.