Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Game 3 Tonight

The University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds and UPEI Panthers continue their best-of-5 AUS semi-final tonight with game 3 scheduled for 7pm in Charlottetown. UNB currently leads the series 2 game to 0 and can advance with a win. Here is a look at some key storylines to keep an eye on:

WHAT'S AT STAKE: With a victory tonight the V-Reds advance to the AUS Finals for the second consecutive year, and 5th time in the last 6 years. For the Panthers, they need a win tonight keep their season alive and force a game 4, which is scheduled for Thursday night. A loss means their season comes to an end.

HOW WE GOT HERE: UNB took a commanding 2 game lead in the series with victories last Friday and Saturday night at the AUC. In the first game the Varsity Reds stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Panthers 4-3 thanks to a late goal by Chris Culligan. On Saturday night UNB used a three goal second period to skate away with a 5-1 victory in a game that included a number of questionable hits and 123 minutes in penalties.

KEY MATCH-UP: UPEI's power play was one of the most potent in the conference this season, clicking at 21.5% overall. However, it was even better at home as the Panthers converted on 19 of 82 chances, which was good for 23.2%. The success continued in their first round series against Acadia as they went 3 for 11 in the two games in Charlottetown. UNB, on the other hand, had a good, but not great penalty kill this season. The Varsity Reds finished 3rd in the AUS at 82.8%, well off of their pace from the last few season when they hovered around 90%. They were 4th overall on the road this year with an 82.9% success rate. So far UNB has killed off 10 of 11 penalties in this series - and 26 of 27 going back to the regular season. That success will need to continue tonight if they want to wrap up the series.

WHO TO WATCH FOR: Panthers forward Matt Carter finished tied for the league lead in scoring this season after registering 18 goals and 20 assists in 28 regular season games. He added 5 goals in the Panthers first round victory over Acadia but has been neutralized so far by UNB, collecting an assist in game 1 before being held scoreless and going -4 in game 2. Carter has been held without a point in consecutive games only twice this year so look for him to come out with a big game with UPEI's season on the line. For UNB, the forward line of Chris Culligan, Tyler Carroll and Shayne Wiebe has been arguably the team's top unit since being put together. They have accumulated 10 points through the first two games and hope to continue their great play together.

SUSPENSIONS: In today's Guardian we receive confirmation that Panthers forward Chris DeSousa has, indeed, been suspended for two games for his hit to Varsity Reds forward Thomas Nesbitt. As the article points out, the hit can not be appealed under AUS rules. UNB forward Geordie Wudrick and UPEI's Zach McCullough will also miss the game after both players were assessed 5 minute checking from behind penalties in game 2. V-Reds forward Tyler Carroll, who missed the second game because of a similar play, is eligible to return. It does not appear that UNB defenceman Ben Wright will be suspended after receiving a 5 minute interference penalty for running into Panthers goalie Mavric Parks in the 3rd period on Saturday night.

SOLD OUT: As mentioned yesterday, the game tonight has essentially been sold out since Monday. The Varsity Reds will certainly have their hands full as they will be playing against a desperate opponent looking to extend their season, as well as what is sure to be a hostile and raucous crowd. UNB was the league's best road team this season, with an 8-3-3 record. They went 1-1 in Charlottetown; losing 3-2 on November 18th before picking up their only regular season win against UPEI, 4-1 on February 10th.

FOLLOW ALONG: For those who can't make it to the game you can watch the webcast here or follow UNBHockey on Twitter.

UdeM/SMU: The other AUS semi-final, between Moncton and Saint Mary's, also resumes tonight in Moncton. The series is tied at one game apiece. You can watch the game here.