Wednesday, March 16, 2011

V-Reds blank X-Men to take 2-1 series lead

ANTIGONISH – The No. 1 ranked University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds took a 2-1 lead in the AUS men's hockey championship Tuesday night at the standing-room only Keating Millennium Centre with a hard fought 2-0 road win over the No.4 ranked StFX X-Men, and UNB will be looking to end the series Wednesday night in Antigonish.

After a tight scoreless first period UNB took their first lead in the series at 13:24 of the second period when the V-Reds top line of Daine Todd (Stettler, AB), Hunter Tremblay (Timmins, ON) and Chris Culligan (Howie Center, NS) broke into the StFX zone on an odd man rush and Culligan snapped the puck from the slot into the top corner of the net past Joey Perricone (San Juan Capistrano, CA)

UNB played a strong defensive period in the third period, bottling up the X-Men for the most part. After X-Men d-man Derek Claffey (Red Deer, AB) was called for tripping up the pinching Marc-Antoine Desnoyers (Hippolyte, PQ), the V-Reds got an insurance marker at 15:26 when rookie Nick MacNeil (Creignish, NS) beat Perricone with a wrister on a power play for his fourth goal of the playoffs. It was the first goal on the man advantage by either team in the series. MacNeil grew up less than an hour from Antigonish across the causeway in Creignish, Cape Breton. His father Andy was a star player for StFX in the 1970's and both his parents were at the game.

StFX's best chance to tie the game came around eight minutes into the third period when rookie Jason Bast (Moose Jaw, SK) split the UNB defence and passed to a hard charging Chris Hulit (Sault Ste. Marie, ON) who tried to go top corner only to see his shot sail over the net. For X-Men head coach Brad Peddle this may have been the turning point at that point in the game. “You've got to bury those chances in a one goal game.”

Travis Fullerton (Riverview, NB) got the shutout for UNB, his second of the playoffs and seventh of the season. While not tested quite as often as Perricone, Fullerton did make 21 saves for the win and the StFX netminder made 23 saves.

Peddle was not surprised by the tight play in the game. “Did anyone expect anything different? I don't think so ... not at this stage. We're at game three is a series where every game has been a one goal game. This is what we expected. This is what we expect for two teams competing in the AUS final.”

UNB's Culligan wasn't surprised by the style of play either. “I don't want to insult Acadia but I feel that X has been a little more tight checking and kind of sitting back maybe a little more making it tough for us to get in their zone. It's been something that we kind of expected. We had a hunch they were going to play like that ... and they're still doin' it. That kinda makes for a close game I think.”

His head coach, Gardiner MacDougall, was understandably pleased with the V-Reds' overall play. “The execution was what was needed this time of year. I thought we had a good intensity level. Our execution got better as the game went. We put pucks where they needed to go. I thought we had a good grit level. Those are keys this time of year. We needed everybody. We got all four lines in. We got our six D in and Fully made the saves when we needed. It was another classic game between two good opponents.” Notwithstanding the particularly strong game from Tremblay, MacDougall made a point to acknowledge the fine play of the three Nova Scotian forwards in the UNB lineup - Culligan, MacNeil and Matt Fillier (Durham, NS), all who were playing in front of family and friends.

Game Notes: UNB last won the AUS championship in 2008; StFX in 2004 .. The paid attendance was 1987, the biggest crowd of the season at the KMC, and slightly more fans than StFX's two home games against SMU (1952 & 1981) in their previous series ... UNB was missing Lachlan MacIntosh, Luke Gallant and Taylor Procyshen from the lineup due to injuries ... If is a game five is needed in the series it will be played Friday night at 7:00 pm at the Aitken University Centre in Fredericton.


Anonymous said...

While it's nice for individual players to score goals, UNB got a great effort last night from every player on the team. Hopefully, they play with the same intensity tonight for a full 60 minutes and wrap the series up.

Coach MacDougall started the game with the semi local combination of Fillier, Culligan and MacNeil as he did in the 2 regular season games.

By the way, Sandy is the father of Nick MacNeil.

Anonymous said...

"But winning playoff games is all about making adjustments, and last night it was the V-Reds beating the X-Men at their own game, utilizing a smothering defence-first approach in a 2-0 win"

WOW, it only took Coach a whole year to figure that out and adjust. Well played!