Monday, February 28, 2011

UNB Wins 3-2 in Quadruple Overtime

FREDERICTON – It was an historic match Sunday night, as the longest hockey game in UNB history went to the fourth overtime period before rookie Varsity Reds forward Nick MacNeil (Creignish, NS) scored the winner, his second goal of the game, on a snapshot from a Chris Culligan (Howie Center, NS) pass on the rush at 11:53 of the seventh period of the game. Acadia goaltender Kristofer Westblom (Meadow Lake, SK) had a career game, making 77 saves in 121:53 minutes of play as he did his best to stymy the constant UNB attack. At the other end of the ice, Travis Fullerton (Riverview, NB) made 37 saves, several of them game savers in overtime. The game started at 6:00 pm and finally finished at 10:45 pm with most of the 1069 fans Aitken University Centre sticking it out to the triumphant end. With the win the Varsity Reds take a commanding two game lead in their best-of-five semi-final series with Acadia.

The Acadia Axemen started the game with a lot of jump and had the better scoring chances early in the game. However at 3:53 Acadia defenceman Nick Emanuele (Sydney, NS) was called for boarding on a heavy hit against Spencer Corcoran (Summerside, PEI), and the UNB power play went to work. At 5:07 Hunter Tremblay (Timmins, ON), playing the left point, put a shot on net that dropped right in front of Kristofer Westblom's skates, and Nick MacNeil who was acting as an effective screen in the blue paint just had to look down and quickly poke the puck between Westblom's feet. That was the only goal of the period that saw UNB outshoot Acadia 12-5.

First year forward Dustin Ekelman (Whitby, ON) tied it up 6:30 of the second period when he blocked a Ben Shutron (Orleans, ON) point shot, chased down the big rebound and then went the length of the ice on a breakaway before beating Travis Fullerton through the legs. UNB regained the lead just over ten minutes later on their second power play. Westblom made a pad save on a Taylor Procyshen (Emerald Park, SK) shot, but the rebound went back to the point and big defenceman Josh Kidd (Sundridge, ON) one-timed the puck into the top corner of the net. UNB outshot Acadia 11-4 in the second period.

After MacNeil had a glorious chance to put UNB up two goals while shorthanded early in the third period, he wore the goat horns after slashing the stick of Chris Owens (St. John's, NF) in the offensive zone. On the power play UNB defenceman Bretton Stamler (Edmonton, AB) got his stick stuck in the rear boards, and with a five-to-three stick advantage Andrew Clark (Brandon, MB) knocked his own rebound past Fullerton at 7:12 to tie the game once again. After killing off another penalty midway through the period UNB had two power play opportunities in the latter part of the third period, but couldn't solve the Acadia penalty killing again, with Westblom always there to make the save. Late in the period Acadia put a flurry of shots at Fullerton but he stood tall in the UNB net. Shots at the end of regulation time favoured UNB 31-18.

After a brief three minute rest the teams set out to play a ten minute overtime of five-on-five hockey, and not the four-on-four overtime play of the regular season. The choppy ice led to a lot of bouncing pucks and sometimes turned even simple passes into adventures. There wasn't a lot of great scoring chances until the last minute, when Chris Ivanko deked UNB's Kidd at the blue line and got the puck over to Spencer Jezegou (Oshawa, ON) who almost scored on the partial breakaway. With no winning goal after ten minutes, the teams went to their respective dressing rooms and the ice was flooded the ice for a normal 15 minute intermission.

The second overtime period was scheduled for 20 minutes, and that is how long it lasted. UNB's Tremblay had a partial breakaway about 90 seconds into the period, but Westblom made the save. At 16:38 the V-Reds had a glorious opportunity to win when Leo Jenner (Mossley, ON) was called for high-sticking Corcoran. However, UNB didn't generate too many scoring chances, and worse, almost gave up the game when Fullerton misplayed the puck behind his net and penalty killer Clark stole the puck and just missed the vacant net with his wraparound attempt.

The third overtime period saw both teams take short shifts with exhausted Axemen just hanging on at times. Each of the overtime periods started the same – UNB would come out like gangbusters driving the net, Acadia would survive the storm for five to ten minutes, and then play would settle into a close checking affair the rest of the way. The most notable scoring chance in that period was a breakaway from Prosychen and pad save by Westblom.

The fourth overtime period saw the V-Reds clearly in the driver's seat. Westblom robbed Jordan Clendenning (Fredericton, NB) close in early in the period and Stammler rang a shot off the iron midway through. At 11:26 Westblom somehow made a save off defenceman Luke Gallant (Bedford, NS) who had wired a shot through a crowd. Then came the play at 11:53, when Culligan and MacNeil, former Junior teammates with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, broke into the Acadia zone on a two-on-one and MacNeil snapped the cross-ice pass from Culligan past Westblom to finally end the game. It was the 80th UNB shot on goal.

After the game Acadia head coach Darren Burns spoke about his banged up roster in the marathon game. “I don't think I've been prouder of a group of guys' effort on one night. Our goaltender was outstanding ... but some of our guys couldn't even stand up they were so gassed.”

Conversely, UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall believed that the longer the game went on the more it favoured the deeper Varsity Reds. “As the game wore on, we got better and better. [In the intermissions] we said the longer it goes hopefully our fitness will kick in. We had a lot of opportunities and good saves from both goalies. Both teams had chances to end it earlier. Persistence is probably the key word that paid off for us.”

When asked how he felt other than tired, game hero MacNeil laughed and replied, “Overtired?” “You just gotta keep grinding in those situations. Four overtimes. You really gotta start to keep your shifts a little bit shorter and more intense, but you can't be finishing your hits every time out there because you have to save some energy. Our team's in really good shape and Kenny [Seaman] does a really good job with our fitness and it showed out there.”

Game Notes: The game stars were: 1. Nick MacNeil 2. Travis Fullerton 3. Kristofer Westblom ... The marathon game may also be an AUS and CIS record long game ... UNB will travel to Wolfville for Game 3 on Thursday night and Game 4 if necessary on Friday night.


Anonymous said...

Amazing performance by both teams. Great to see UNB come out on top. Fullerton was stellar. Almost lost in the MacNeil goal was the awesome pass from Culligan. How many big plays has this guy been involved in since he's come to UNB? Phenomenal player.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know why Wright hardly played?

Anonymous said...

Culligan's pass may have been lost to anyone who is not familiar with hockey.But i think the 1000 plus fans recognize Chris's skill and hard work.His beauty pass was certainly not lost on Mac Neil as he mentioned the pass in his post game interview at center ice and in the local newspaper the next day.It was a very exciting game to watch.Fans got their monies worth.

Anonymous said...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that more should have been made of Culligan's pass but to me, it was just another instance of him being in the right place at the right time. Coincidence, I think not. Nevertheless, it was a great play by two great players.

Anonymous said...

Last year, when it was time for Rookie of the Year voting, some people suggested that Culligan got his points just because he was playing with Dickson and Tremblay. It should have been obvious that only a very good player would have been used on the 1st line, 1st unit power play and penalty killing as a 1st year player on the #1 ranked team in the country. It wasn't to help him get points but to help the team score goals.

His play this year has been even stronger but unfortunately, he'll probably be overlooked again in end of the year voting.

Anonymous said...

Just looked at the boxscore of the game...UNB was 97-52 on face-offs with Bailey going 47-20...kind of funny seeing those kind of numbers for one game.

Anonymous said...

That faceoff advantage was really important for UNB when you consider all the key defensive zone faceoffs in sudden death. Kyle Bailey did a fantastic job all night on key draws but 2 other centers had good nights as well

32 Kyle Bailey 47 20
19 Jordan Clendenning 24 14
57 Chris Culligan 22 12