Saturday, October 13, 2012

UNB Welcomes Aigles Bleus In AUS Finals Rematch

The #1 CIS ranked University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds (1-0-0 conference record, 5-1-0 overall) are back on home ice tonight when they host the #8 ranked Universite de Moncton Aigles Bleus (0-1-0, 2-3-0) in a rematch of last season's AUS Championship. Game time is 7PM.

KEY STATS: A season after leading the AUS in goals per game (4.29), goals allowed per game (2.54), shots per game (36.0), shots allowed per game (22.5), and face-off percentage (57.3) things went almost according to script last night for the V-Reds as they beat STU 5-2, fired 34 shots at net while only allowing 19, and won 55.7 of the face-offs. Perhaps most encouraging was the two power play goals UNB scored on only four opportunities, no doubt a welcome sight for fans who seen the V-Reds light the lamp only 25 times with the man advantage last season.

After spending two seasons near the bottom of the AUS standings the Universite de Moncton Aigles Bleus returned to prominence last year, finishing third in the conference with an 18-9-1 record. They would make it all the way to the AUS Championship and, subsequently, the University Cup. The Aigles were middle of the pack in terms of a number of categories, including goal scored per game (3.61, 4th in the AUS), goals allowed (3.11, 3rd), and power play percentage (5th, 17.7). They struggled with getting shots on net (6th, 30.11), with their special teams (5th at 17.7 with the power play and 6th at 80.0 on the penalty kill), and staying out of the penalty box (217 penalties, second most in league). However, they were able to offset most of that with the second highest shooting percentage in the league (12.0) and the highest save percentage (0.907). It would stand to reason that they can't rely on that happening again and will need to improve in some of the areas mentioned above if they want to experience the same kind of success this year.

HEAD TO HEAD: This is the first regular season meeting of the season between the two teams after opening their respective pre-season schedules against one another, a convincing 6-2 Moncton win back on September 17th in a game that took place in Abrams-Village, PEI. They are also to scheduled to meet on November 24th and January 19th in Moncton, and on February 8th at the AUC in the regular season finale for both squads. It will mark the 2nd consecutive season, and 13th time in 21 years, the two teams will end the season against one another.

The V-Reds have gone 20-1-1 overall, and 11-0-1 at home, against Moncton since suffering a 5-3 setback on November 30th, 2007, their only loss in regulation time that season. 

LAST SEASON: The Varsity Reds were victorious in three out of the four regular season encounters last year, as well as all three games of the AUS Championship. UNB pulled out a 6-3 road victory behind the goaltending of Matt Davis on November 4th, scoring the final three goals of the game. Another third period rally on November 20th turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win in a rare afternoon game at the AUC. Moncton would gain a measure of revenge on January 20th with a convincing 5-1 decision at the JLL, handing the V-Reds one of their worst losses in recent memory. It also snapped what had been a 12 game winning streak by UNB over Moncton. The two teams closed out the regular season on February 11th with UNB picking up a 4-1 win in what turned out to be one of the more entertaining games of the season.

The two would then meet in the AUS Championship with UNB emerging on top in three straight games to earn their 2nd consecutive banner. the V-Reds won the first two games on home ice - 8-3 and 4-2 - before wrapping up the series with a 4-0 win in Moncton.

RECENT GAMES: Both teams finished their exhibition schedule last weekend. UNB lost twice (once in a shootout) and picked up a tie on their annual trip throughout the northeastern United States. They finished the pre-season with a 4-2-1 record with one tie, including a 4-1 mark against CIS competition. However, that one loss came at the hands of Moncton.

UNB won their home opener last night against STU 5-2.

Moncton played four exhibition games, all against AUS opponents, and went 2-2, alternating wins and losses. As mentioned previously they defeated UNB 6-2 on September 17th before losing to St. FX 5-3 on September 27th in Antigonish, NS. They rebounded with a 5-2 win over Acadia on October 3rd in Cocagne, New Brunswick only to lose 3-1 in Grand Falls, NB to UPEI.

They also met the Panthers last night in their season opener, falling by a score of 4-3.

WHO TO WATCH FOR ON MONCTON: The Aigles Bleus captain, and top scorer, Dean Ouellet has graduated but they return their next 8 highest scorers off of last year's team. This includes Eric Faille (32 points), Alex Quesnel (25, but currently injured), Francis Rochon (23), Marc-Andre Cote (21), and Guillaume Parenteau (18). Perhaps their best player, however, is newly appointed captain Christian Gaudet. The former pro only played 10 games last year due to injuries but posted 14 points. Look for him to be in the running for the AUS scoring title this season. Moncton also returns most of their defence, only losing Mathieu Labrie (8 points). Over the summer they added some more skill, and much needed size, in recruits Raphael Pouliot (49 points in the QMJHL last year) and Alex Emond (48). The Aigles will need to try and find a replacement for Pierre-Alexandre Marion in goal, however. Marion finished 2nd in the AUS with a sparkling .913 save percentage last season, giving the Aigles a chance to win every night. He was perhaps the main reason Moncton got by both St. FX and Saint Mary's in the playoffs. The reigns will now be handed to rookie, and former pro, Adrien Lemay and last year's back-up Andre-Michel Guay.

WHO TO WATCH FOR ON UNB: The Varsity Reds were expected to have one of the top number one lines in the AUS, if not CIS, this season and they did not disappoint in their first regular season game together. Chris Culligan, Tyler Carroll, and Cam Braes combined for 4 goals and 6 assists in UNB's 5-2 win over STU last night. Thomas Nesbitt, looking to build on an impressive rookie campaign that seen him register 21 points in 27 games, also got his season off to a good start with a goal just over a minute in.

FOLLOW ALONG: If you can't make it to the AUC tonight the game will shown live on Rogers TV in New Brunswick (channel 10) as well as web-cast online. You can also follow UNBHockey or UdeM fan Philippe Poirier on Twitter for updates.

St. Thomas at UPEI
Acadia at Dalhousie
Saint Mary's at St. FX