Saturday, March 12, 2011

V-Reds rally for comeback win over X-Men

FREDERICTON – Friday night the No. 1 ranked University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds didn't have a great second period, but they rebounded in the third period against the No. 7 ranked StFX X-Men and dominated extra time for the 3-2 comeback overtime win to take the first game of the best-of-five AUS men's hockey championship. Defenceman Ben Wright scored the winner for UNB 4:34 into the sudden victory extra period. Game two goes 7:00 pm Saturday night at the Aitken University Centre.

Photo courtesy Brian Smith
As perhaps could be expected in the opening of a playoff series, the two teams played a close checking game to start in front of the 2623 fans at the AUC on a soggy night. UNB got into penalty trouble early due to some tight calls by the two referees working the game. The V-Reds killed off a brief five-on-three situation, aided by the X-Man being assessed a penalty of their own. The best scoring opportunity of the period was probably at 14:25 when rookie V-Reds defenceman Marc-Antoine Desnoyers (Hippolyte, PQ) stumbled carrying the puck across the blue line; the turnover created a three-on-one for the X-Men. Fortunately for UNB, Bryce Swan's (Alder Point, NS) shot rang off the post. StFX outshot UNB 10-8 in the first period, with six of those shots coming on the two X-Men power plays.

Much like Tuesday night against Saint Mary's, StFX was the better team in the second period. Their solid team systems constantly foiled UNB's breakouts out of their own zone, as they took away the middle and forced the V-Reds to the outside. Jason Bast (Moose Jaw, SK) opened the scoring when he scored his AUS-leading sixth goal of the playoffs at 5:50 off the rush. Bast got past the UNB defence with the puck, and went forehand to backhand with his outstretched stick to put the puck past the unsuccessful poke check attempt by Travis Fullerton (Riverview, NB) and into the net. StFX kept up the pressure and less than four minutes later the X-Men were the recipients of a gift goal when Fullerton made a right pad save off Murdoch MacLellan (Mabou, NS) n tight, but the rebound went of UNB defenceman Ben Shutron`s (Orleans, ON) skate and into the net. One faceoff later UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall called timeout and he was quite visibly animated on the bench while he addressed his out-of-sync team. It wasn't until the last few minutes of the period that the V-Reds generated any sustained pressure and scoring chances in the X-Men zone. Shots in the tight checking middle period were 7-4 in favour of StFX.

Photo courtesy Brian Smith
UNB was a different team to start the third period, looking more like a desperate team trying to surmount a two goal deficit. The V-Reds adjusted their breakouts and were generating attacks through the neutral zone while StFX looked to be sitting back a bit protecting their lead. At 4:29 Hunter Tremblay (Timmins, ON) woke up the nervous crowd when he tipped a Desnoyer point shot past Joey Perricone (San Juan Capistrano, CA). Tremblay was in the left circle, with his back to the StFX goaltender who had no chance on the puck. Just over two minutes later the V-Reds scored a mirror image goal. This time it was Daine Todd (Stettler, AB) in the right circle, tipping a Shutron shot past Perricone to tie the game. The X-Men came out of their defensive shell after that goal, and the rest of the period was a tight checking affair with a few scoring chances for both teams. Shots in the period were 9-7 for UNB.

After a three minute break, the teams started the ten minute overtime. Well UNB started, because it was all V-Reds in the extra period. The home team put furious pressure on the X-Men, keeping them penned up in their own end for the most part. Worse for StFX, UNB was able to change up their attackers one-by-one while keeping the X-Men bottled up. Finally the beleaguered X-Men were forced to ice the puck to get a line change. However on the resultant faceoff in the StFX zone Chris Culligan (Howie Center, NS) won the draw back to Ben Wright (Foremost, AB) on the left point. Wright fired the puck through a screen in front of the net and beat Perricone on the short side, completing the UNB comeback at 4:34 of overtime. UNB outshot StFX 6-0 in overtime and 27-24 in the game.

“We believed we could come back and win this game, and that's exactly what we did,” said game hero Ben Wright on the UNB comeback. All three V-Reds goals came from point shots. “They were blocking shots really well so as d-men we had to keep our heads up and sift a couple through. The forwards were doing a good job getting in front but it was up to us to get 'em in on net.”

Photo courtesy Brian Smith
“It's not X's and O's this time of year. It is all about winning pucks and playing fundamental hockey. We weren't that close in the first two periods. But part of that you got to contribute to our opponent who played a very good game I thought. That was a good rally. It was a good boost for the group in a lot of ways. Anytime you can come back at home there is a confidence boost in that. I thought our goaltender in the first two periods made key saves even though there wasn't that many shots. I thought he made real key saves for us and gave us a chance,” replied MacDougall when asked about the third period comeback.

StFX head coach Brad Peddle was happy with his team's play in the first two periods, but on the UNB deflection goals he said, “we've got to do a better job getting in front of those shots.” Peddle thought the difference in the outcome was that “we should have capitalized on a couple of chances we had earlier in the game.” “I thought it was a pretty hard fought game by both teams”, said Peddle.

Game Notes: The three game stars were 1. Ben Wright 2. Daine Todd 3. Jonathan Harty ... the Todd-Culligan-Tremblay line was involved in all three UNB goals and they were each +3 ... UNB captain Kyle Bailey was 18-9 on faceoffs to lead all centres in the game ... the four penalties in the game were all in the first period and neither team scored ... All-Canadian defenceman Luke Gallant and sniper Taylor Procyshen did not dress for UNB ... the V-Reds continue to be undefeated at home this season.

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