Saturday, October 16, 2010

UPEI 4 - UNB 2

Charlottetown -- Well it wasn't exactly the start the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds were looking for, or expected, as they dropped a 4-2 decision to the UPEI Panthers Friday, opening night for the AUS men's 2010-11 hockey season. Despite going 8-0 in the preseason the V-Reds didn't look particularly sharp nor consistently focused in the game while for their part the Panthers played strong in front of first year goaltender Mark Guggenburger (Richmond, MN), especially on the penalty kill. Although UNB outshot UPEI 34-20 in the game, they didn't get a lot of really good second shot opportunities as the Panther defence did a good job all night clearing rebounds.
It was not the normal road trip to Prince Edward Island as high winds forced the Confederation Bridge to be closed to high-sided vehicles, so UNB had to leave their bus on the New Brunswick side of the Northumberland Strait and pile into a number of vans and a pickup truck to continue the the journey to Charlottetown and back.

Whether it was the travel changes, the 10 days since their last game, or something else, UNB did not open the game with quite their normal speed and precision, and UPEI matched their play in the early part of the first period. However as UNB upped their forecheck they started to draw UPEI into obstruction penalties. On their second power play V-Reds captain Kyle Bailey (Ponoka, AB) was in the slot and was able to one-time a pass to complete a tic-tac-toe play at 11:57with Hunter Tremblay (Timmins, ON) and Luke Lynes (Rochester Hills, MI). Lynes was promoted to the top line to replace Chris Culligan (Howie Center, NS), who was out of the lineup with an illness. However, less than ten minutes later Bailey was assessed an uncharacteristic ten minute misconduct, and the UNB momentum appeared to sag a bit in the game. The V-Reds still carried most of the play for the remainder of the period, until with less than eight seconds to go, UPEI captain Thomas Waugh (Summerside, PE) got half a step on the UNB defence, forced Travis Fullerton (Riverview, NB) to make a big toe save, and then drew Bretton Stamler (Edmonton, AB) into a holding penalty. Shots were 9-6 for UNB in the first period.

UNB started the second period shorthanded as the penalty carried over, and were doing a pretty good job on the penalty kill until late in the penalty when UPEI won the draw in the offensive zone and Brandon Biggers (Sarnia, ON) tipped the puck past a surprised Fullerton to tie the game. At 3:19 the Panthers got an ugly goal to take the lead when Fullerton overplayed the original shot on the rush from Waugh, and was out of position when the rebound ended back in the crease area and bounced off Graham McNabb (Minesing, ON), by accident or by design, and into the net. Around the eight minute mark of the period there was almost two minutes of four-on-four play. Last season that measure of extra room on the ice would have favoured the V-Reds, but not in this game. UNB was handed a golden opportunity to tie the game at 18:05 when Michael MacIsaac (O`Leary, PE) earned a triple-minor penalty (roughing, tripping and unsportsmanlike conduct) while killing a Panther penalty. This was probably the turning point in the game, as Guggenberger stood tall and his teammates were solid on the penalty kill, while UNB kept looking for a clear shooting lane.

UNB started the third period on the power play to no avail. At 3:05 they were given 63 seconds of five-on-three play when Jordan Knox (Skinner`s Pond, PE) was called for handling the puck with his hand, yet the closest the V-Reds came to a goal was when one of Bailey`s shots clanged off both posts and out behind Guggenberger. UPEI had an obvious emotional lift after their successful long penalty kill, and extended their lead at 6:43 on a bang-bang play when Waugh was able to deflect a pass from Matt Carter (Mississauga, ON), who was deep in the corner at the goal line, over the shoulder of Fullerton and just under the crossbar. After that goal, the V-Reds put on a furious press and controlled most of the play. They were finally rewarded at 11:40 when Jeff Lee (Calgary, AB) redirected a Nick Layton (Salisbury, NB) pass into an open side of the net. The UNB comeback was foiled at 16:58 when Waugh out muscled a V-Reds defender for the puck in the right corner, drove the net, and pushed the puck past Fullerton. UNB called a timeout with 1:40 to go and pulled their goalie, but just could not get anything more past Guggenberger. UNB outshot UPEI 13-5 in the period and 34-20 in the 4-2 loss. UNB was 1-for-8 on the power play in the game while UPEI was 1-for-5 with the man advantage.

The Varsity Reds returned to Fredericton after the game and will be down the hill at the LBR to play St. Thomas Saturday night.

By David Kilfoil for the UNB Varsity Reds

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