Sunday, January 9, 2011

V-Reds Blunt Axemen 6-0

FREDERICTON – Saturday night the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds blanked the Acadia Axemen 6-0 in a men's hockey game that was much closer than the score would indicate, with all of the scoring coming in the second half of the match. Derek Yeomans (St. Albert, AB) earned the shutout for UNB's second of the weekend, third in a row in AUS conference play, and fourth shutout in a row at home.
Photo Courtesy Brian Smith

The game was projected to be a statement game, and it delivered, as the V-Reds were determined to make up for their 3-2 loss to the Axemen in Wolfville in November, while Acadia was hoping to not only continue the momentum from their road win the night before against UPEI, but prove that they deserve to be considered a threat for the AUS championship.

The first period saw UNB have the clear edge in territorial play as they outshot Acadia 12-4, but neither team could score and each came up short on their single power play opportunity. The best scoring chance for either team came early in the period when Ryan Graham (Mount Pearl, NF) had a shorthanded breakaway and Yeomans made the initial save only to see the puck trickle through his pads. Fortunately for UNB it was stopped by defenceman Luke Gallant (Bedford, NS) before it could cross the goal line. At the other end of the ice Kris Westblom (Meadow Lake, SK) made key saves in the period off Gallant at the end of a good passing play and he later came up big on a one-timer delivered by Lachlan MacIntosh (Perth Andover, NB).

Photo Courtesy Brian Smith
By contrast, the second period was probably the wildest and most intense 20 minutes at the Aitken University Centre this season. At 6:25 UNB's Kyle Bailey (Ponoka, AB) was hit hard along the boards near the Varsity Reds bench by Dustin Ekelman (Whitby, ON) in a play that just about everyone in the building, except the referee, judged to be checking from behind. V-Red defencemen Spencer Corcoran (Summerside, PEI) certainly thought so and engaged Ekelman and was subsequently caught up with third-man-in Zack Firlotte (Minto, NB) in a scrum. At 8:16 Josh Kidd (Sundridge, ON) appeared to have his head driven into the glass by Acadia d-man Michael Ward (Shippagan, NB) at almost the same location as the Bailey incident, and Kidd immediately took matters into his own hands with Ward when no penalty was called on the hit. The big UNB defenceman was fortunate to escape without a fighting major after the spirited tussle.

The first goal of the game came at 11:36 when UNB defenceman Jonathan Harty (Oromocto, NB) went to the net with speed and knocked in a rebound, and then got into a pushing and shoving match before he could celebrate the goal. Less than two minutes later Firlotte was called for boarding for a big hit on Kidd, and the UNB power play went to work. Hunter Tremblay (Timmins, ON) made a nice pass to Chris Culligan (Howie Center, NS) in the slot who fired the puck past Westblom at 14:00 to put UNB up 2-0. In the last minute of the period V-Reds defenceman Ben Wright (Foremost, AB) drove the net with Tremblay, who scored on the play, and Wright plowed into Axeman Paul Kurceba (Calgary, AB), who took exception, and the two defencemen dropped the gloves and had a spirited fight in the crease before the officials jumped in. Both Wright and Kurceba were ejected from the game and they will be automatically suspended for another game. Wright also got an extra minor for the original hit on Kurceba, so Acadia went on the power play after giving up the goal. However the Axeman didn't take advantage, and worse, Bailey and Nick MacNeil (Creignish, NS) combined to score a shorthanded goal with just 8 seconds to go in the period. So UNB came away with four goals in the period despite being outshot 13-10.
Photo Courtesy Brian Smith

Acadia head coach Darren Burns opted to put Michael Chiasson (Cole Harbour, NS) in the Axemen net to start the third period. Chiasson was doing well until 4:54 when Nick Layton (Salisbury, NB) entered the Acadia zone with speed and ripped a high shot from the top of the circle that blew by the goaltender and sent his water bottle spinning into the air. Less than two minutes later Culligan was behind the Acadia net and passed the puck to Tremblay out front in the slot, and his one-timer made it 6-0 for UNB. The third period had been significantly less edgy until the 10:18 mark, when a scrum broke out in front of the V-Reds net as some Acadia players kept battling in the crease after Yeomans gloved the puck. The pushing and shoving continued as the players paired off in the UNB zone. Fans howled when Tremblay, who was tied up with Chris Bruton (Calgary, AB) along the boards, took several punches to the face while just trying to hold onto his stick. After the players finally calmed down and the officials regained control, four V-Reds (Jordan Clendenning, Harty, Tremblay and Matt Fillier) and four Axemen (Graham, Jonathan Laberge, Bruton and Ward) were given 10-minute misconducts and all but Ward were also assessed minor penalties for roughing. After the penalties were announced the eight combatants were sent to their dressing rooms, creating a lot more room on the team benches.  

Photo Courtesy Brian Smith
Despite the lopsided score, the remainder of the period was still pretty entertaining as the Axeman tried to spoil Yeoman's shutout and the V-Reds did everything in their power to prevent it. The shots in the final period were a relatively low 8-6 in favour of Acadia, who were outshot 28-25 in the game. Yeomans earned his first shutout of the season, following up on goaltending partner Travis Fullerton who had a shutout Friday night. The players of the game were: 1. Derek Yeomans; 2. Hunter Tremblay; 3. Chris Culligan. The paid attendance at the Aitken University Centre was 2324.

Even though they lost handly, Burns thought his team played pretty well all game, and he thought the second period power plays were the turning point. “They've got some guys who buried, and we were pretty snake bitten around the net ... they've got some guys who sniped at opportune times.” He added, “I thought we had some fantastic chances tonight, and we didn't score any goals.” Burns wouldn't comment on the officiating as he believes “it takes away from two teams who worked hard.”

UNB captain Bailey, sporting several facial contusions as a result of the weekend's play, was almost relishing the battle scars and played down the two hits to the head he received. “Teams are very close this year. The physicality is going to get ramped up earlier ... the games are close, they're intense, you couldn't ask for anything better.” D-man Harty wasn't surprised by the physical tone of the game. “They're a very tough team, and like to play physical. So do we, and we went toe to toe out there.”

With the win, the V-Reds maintain their hold on first place in the AUS standings and they are now 13-4-0 in conference play. Next weekend UNB will be in Moncton on Friday night to play les Aigles Bleus and they will be back home Saturday night to host the UPEI Panthers.


UNB Bruins Fan said...

I've always felt Yeomans plays much better the more action he sees and that may have been one of the best games I've seen him play at UNB....especially considering how many times the 'D' hung him out to dry with all the odd man rushes they gave up.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Yeomans was great in this one. If he didn't make a few great saves, Acadia could have easily been up at least 2-0 at the halfway point, gone into a defensive shell and the outcome could have been very different. Great game Derek.

P.S. What an awesome picture of the waterbottle shot goal!