Saturday, March 19, 2011

Varsity Reds win AUS Championship in OT

Photo courtesy Brian Smith

FREDERICTON – It seems somewhat fitting that the AUS men's hockey championship would end in overtime Friday night, just like the first two games of the series played at the Aitken University Centre. This time it was UNB captain Kyle Bailey (Ponoka, AB) scoring the winner at 3:43 of overtime, on the power play, to bring the sold out crowd of 3650 to their feet. The No. 1 ranked Varsity Reds squeak out a 5-4 Game Five victory over the No. 4 ranked StFX X-Men, and capture their first AUS championship since 2008, and their 12th banner all time.

As could be expected in a championship game, there was a bit of edge to the play in the early going. StFX's Rob Warner (Whitehorse, YK) and UNB's Nick MacNeil (Creignish, NS) got tangled up alongside the UNB bench and both were sent off for two minutes for roughing after the whistle at the 34 second mark. The first goal of the game came at 6:14 when Hunter Tremblay (Timmins, ON) took a pass from Chris Culligan (Howie Center, NS) and beat Joey Perricone (San Juan Capistrano, CA) with a quick wrister through the pads. The noise after the goal was deafening, enhanced by the hundreds of UNB students who took advantage of the one-time opportunity to buy tickets for a only a dollar apiece.

A couple of minutes later defenceman Marc-Antoine Desnoyers (Hippolyte, PQ) was unable to clear the puck out of the V-Reds zone, and the puck eventually came to Kevin Undershute (Medicine Hat, AB) who rang a heavy shot off the post. Midway through the period StFX had another glorious scoring opportunity when Brett Morrison (Howie Centre, NS) deked a UNB defenceman on the way to the net, but Travis Fullerton (Riverview, NB) made the save.

Photo courtesy Brian Smith
UNB extended their lead at 16:45 and once it again it was Tremblay with the goal. This time he had a partial break thanks to a pass from Daine Todd (Stettler, AB) who made a good play to steal the puck. Perricone made a pad save off the rush, but the big rebound went right back to Tremblay who hammered the puck past the StFX goalender. A minute later Bailey was tripped up while driving the net by boyhood friend Mark Louis (Ponoka, AB) and the V-Reds went on the powerplay. UNB only generated one shot on goal with the man advantage, and the X-Men escaped to the dressing room down 2-0 while being outshot 13-8.

Ten days ago StFX was down 2-0 after one period in Game 5 against Saint Mary's, and they came back in the second period to tie the game, and eventually win it it double overtime. Well the X-Men had a similarly dominant second period in this game, and they were buzzing the UNB net when power forward Bryce Swan (Alder Point, NS) knocked the rebound past Fullerton at 1:30. Two minutes later StFX co-captain Chris Hulit (Sault Ste. Marie, ON) was called for goaltender interference, but UNB once again wasn't able to score on the power play.

StFX tied the game at 13:16 when Jason Bast (Moose Jaw, SK) was able to get around UNB defender Ben Wright (Foremost, AB) with the puck, and then make a pass through the slot to Undershute who had a wide-open side of the net to score into. At the time of the goal the shots were tied 15-15. That goal took the crowd out of the game for awhile, as they nervously waited for UNB to respond. StFX kept the pressure on and outshot the home side 13-2 in the middle period.

Photo courtesy Brian Smith
UNB's Jonathan Harty (Oromocto, NB) took a slashing penalty right at the end of the second period, so StFX would have a power play to start the third period. UNB successfully killed off the penalty, and 26 seconds after that, they were back in the lead when Bailey fired the puck through a crowd and Perricone never moved until after the red light came on. UNB's penalty woes continued however. Jeff Lee (Calgary, AB) was called for high-sticking at 3:02. UNB killed it off. Defenceman Josh Kidd (Sundridge, ON) was called for elbowing after a heavy collision behind the UNB net. This time the X-Men scored to tie it up at 6:14 when Phil Mangan (Gananogue, QC) saw his puck from the high slot beat Fullerton over the shoulder and land just inside the far post.

At 13:37 Culligan made a great individual effort to score, as he drew an interference penalty call against Nick Pageau (Stoney Creek, ON) as he broke out of the UNB zone and then on his breakaway Culligan was caught just as he drove the net as a StFX defencemen swept his feet out from under him, but by first playing the puck as decided by the referees. The fans wanted a penalty shot, but didn't get it. Highlighting the importance of the power play opportunity, UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall called a timeout to plot a strategy for his team. Maybe it worked, because Desnoyer ripped a point shot through a screen at 14:17 that caught just under the crossbar. Perricone had no chance on the go ahead goal.

As has been seen all series, the X-Men didn't let the goal deflate them, and at 16:43 Morrison scored in a scrum to tie it up yet again. No more goals came in the final period so the teams headed to overtime after a three minute break.

UNB appeared to have the edge in the extra period, and twice StFX players committed what the vocal crowd thought were infractions against UNB players, but the officials disagreed. The third time it happened the crowd got their way, when Hulit was called for hooking in the V-Reds zone. One minute into the power play Jordan Clendenning (Fredericton, NB) got the puck to Bailey, and he got just enough on his shot to put the puck up and over the outstretched Perricone and into the net at 3:43. Pandemonium then erupted on the ice and in the stands as the V-Reds and their fans celebrated the moment. UNB outshot StFX 4-0 in the overtime and 25-23 in the game.

The players of the game were Hunter Tremblay for UNB and Jason Bast for StFX. Tremblay was proud of his teammates in the hard fought contest. “We had two or three times to close them out. We had the the lead two or three times. Give them credit, they [StFX] came back all throughout the series. It was a big win for our group. Not only for the championship but throughout the series. We got some confidence that we could come back from deficits.”

Photo courtesy Brian Smith

UNB captain Kyle Bailey was understandably pleased after the game. “It's pretty amazing. You spend four years in this league and you really appreciate how hard it is to win the AUS championship. I just couldn't be happier for the guys. I'm really proud of them.”

After the game, StFX head coach Brad Peddle was already looking ahead to next week and the Cavendish University Cup. “We'll take two days off this weekend and Monday we'll be ready to go again.”

Game Notes: Some lucky fan won $4312 in the 50/50 draw, the biggest payout of the season ... Luke Gallant and Taylor Procyshen did not dress for UNB ... Lachlan MacIntosh was back in the V-Reds lineup and Nick Layton was scratched to make room ... The game marked the 12th playoff game for the X-Men and the 9th for the V-Reds ... Three games in this best-of-five series went to overtime ... StFX will still advance to the Cavendish University Cup next week in Fredericton, most likely in a pool with Alberta and McGill while there is a good chance Calgary and Western will be in the other pool with UNB ... The tournament committee will set the pools, with the three conference champs seeded 1,2,3 based on the final Top 10 rankings.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations UNB from the west coast! However, against the top teams they will not get away with such terrible bench management. Ever wonder why they constantly blow leads to teams not as talented and definitely not as deep? Coach panics way too early and shortens the bench way too long. Shifts are 1-2 minutes long not 30 - 45 seconds. Lady luck helped out the tired top guys last night, but coach will have to show confidence in the entire team for success at nationals. The savings grace may be there are not so many back to back games at nationals - they might be able to do it with just the very talented top guys.

Anonymous said...

Not as many back-to-back games? At the very least they have to play 3 games in 4 nights, which they haven't done all season. If anything their "saving grace" might be tv timeouts.

RED ARMY said...

West Coast, what do you mean "the top teams"? These are the top teams and it's the rest of the pack that will soon know how tough it is to play against a team like ST FX!Good luck!

Anonymous said...

As for 3 games in 4 nights...they played Calgary, Alberta, Calgary 3 in 4....Umass, Vermont, RPI 3 in 4...McGill, Providence, Providence 3 in 4 and went 8 for 9 in those games

I think they planned ahead

Anonymous said...

Wow I'm dumb...probably should have researched that a bit better.

Anonymous said...

I've been a Reds (Red Devils) fan for a long time but don't know if my heart can take many more overtime games. Kudos to X as well. This isn't the same team we saw here in the first half. They are much more disciplined but still have that edge that gets under the Reds skin from time to time. It would have been nice to see the fans tip their (red) hats to X last night for a hard fought, never say die, series. Just when we seemed ready to say okay we've got them now, they found a way to come back.

Conditioning wise they seemed to stay with the Reds too. In fact last night the Reds looked like the tired team in the second period. They were back on their heels and fortunate that X didn't put the game away.

That was the fifth game in eight days for these teams when they are used to playing two in a week. With a few days to breathe they should both be ready to take on whatever the rest of the CIS has to offer and hopefully we see them both in the final next Sunday. But please, no overtime.

As a Reds fan it pains me a bit to say it but it would have been a shame to see either team lose that series. There is no doubt that the best two teams were in the final and with the exception of one game kept the fans on the edge of their seats until the last whistle, or in the three games here the last goal.

UNB Bruins Fan said...

The second period last night was maybe the worst period I have seen UNB play all many times did they fail to clear the puck/X keep the puck in? UNB was way too sloppy defensively at times. I am a bit concerned about giving up 10 goals in the last two games, hopefully they can get that addressed before next week.

I think X proved in this series that they can not only play a smothering defensive game but they aren't too bad when they were forced to open things up a bit either.

I really want no part of X again this season since you know it would be a close game and it is just as likely to go their way next time as UNB's. Plus, I still have bad memories of the 2004 Final.

Anonymous said...

Wow, we are not dumb. You actually have a schedule before you start the series this time? Classy.

university hockey rooter said...

Under the game notes, it also should acknowledge that fifth-year, quality defenceman-role forward, Josh Hepditch, did not dress for the game even though he was out for the warmup. In fact, it was the same scenario for Josh in Antigonish as well. Not really sure the V-Reds coaching staff has soured on a player who has done everything but drive the bus (which I'm sure he'd be willing to do as well). Josh is a communsate team player who really deserves to be in there, and just for sentimental reasons. This guys gives a credible each and every night out, and it pains to see how his role has been completely removed from the UNB game plan. Kudos to guys like Luke Lynes and Nick Layden and Mattias Keranan for being the team guys that they obviously are. If they win a national title, they deserve as much credit as the guys who are being given an opportunity. Hepditch, particularly, deserves to be in uniform and playing.

university hockey rooter said...

slight correction to the previous post: should read josh hepditch should be in there and NOT just for sentimental reasons. Hockey isn't a game of sentimentality and players no doubt recognize that. but when the level of performance is high and that player still gets the nod out because of a role he is perceived to have, that really shouldn't be the case. Every team has guys like that, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

I agree with rooter. You can't just play with two lines. You must have four lines all playing hard and taking short shifts for most of the game. Not only do Lynes, Layden, and Hepditch deserve a look, but the third and fourth lines that play so well during their limited time need to play a bigger role as well, especially when playing 5 games in seven days like we just went through.

Anonymous said...

If the Reds are 100% healthy, there will be a lot of very very difficult decisions to be made about who dresses and who has to sit out!

I'm sure there are a lot of fans who would disagree on their lineups.

Anonymous said...

Seems like a good time to criticize the incredibly difficult decisions that Gardiner has to make about who plays...I mean they did only win the AUS Championship last night...jeesh

Anonymous said...

What decisions? - he just plays the same 6 guys to death. I agree that this is not a time to panic, but some healthy dialogue might be in order. Correct me if I am wrong but I think we were just out scored in the AUS finals by a lower seeded team. And who cares about that banner - we want the National Championship! I tend to agree that it might be a close thing trying to beat a 24 - 2 - 2 team with a short bench even if they are not as good.
Go V Reds!

Anonymous said...

hey west coast,what do you mean against top teams.are you forgeting UNB was the top team most of the year.they are the top be worried about being in a pool with magill and x if i were you....

Anonymous said...

Someone was just saying correct me if Im wrong but we were just outscored by a lower seeded team in the AUS finals. Ill correct you, you are wrong, add up the goals, they were dead even and that includes X's 6-3 win.

You could say UNB was lucky, but wouldnt you also say so was St FX, both this series and last years series? Breaks and bounces happen, its about friggin time we got one vs X

And whats this crap about playing the same 2 lines? You mean to tell me Trevor Steinburgh at St Mary's did not play Rancourt, Hotham, Fergus and Thorton every single other shift and 100% of all time on the Power Plays the Last 4 years any of those guys played together.

Alberta Has two lines period that can score, I hope badly Alberta makes it through to the CIS Final vs UNB, they won't have the homegrown ref awarding the Bears 10 Power Plays to the Varsity Reds 1, saving face in a 6-2 loss, that likely would have been 8-1 , 10-1

Problem is Alberta wont beat X

Anonymous said...

and the crowd goes silent!!!!