Friday, October 19, 2012

V-Reds In Halifax Tonight To Face Huskies

The University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds look to get back on the winning track when they hit the road for their first away game of the season tonight against the Saint Mary`s Huskies at the Halifax Forum. Game time is 7PM.

The Varsity Reds (1-1-0 conference record, 6-2-0 overall CIS record) fell out of the top spot in the latest CIS rankings released on Tuesday and are currently sitting in 2nd. The Huskies (1-1-0, 4-3-0), on the other hand, are in the unfamiliar position of being unranked. In fact, they were not even one of the 17 teams who received at least a single vote.

This will also mark the first time new V-Red Colby Pridham will play against his former team.  

KEY STATS: Although they led the AUS in goals per game (4.29), goals allowed per game (2.54), and shots per game (36.0) last season the Varsity Reds have regressed in each category through the first two games of the season. They are averaging 3.50 goals scored per game, 3.50 goals against per game, and only 30.0 shots per game. They have also allowed 3 power play goals on their first 13 penalty kills, a success rate of only 76.9. Perhaps most frustrating has been the 19 penalties and 35 penalty minutes per game the team has accumulated thus far, only a season removed from taking the 4th fewest penalties (212) and the 3rd fewest penalty minutes (18.96 per game) in the league.

The Huskies posted another typically strong season last year, finishing 2nd in the AUS for the 4th time in the last 5 seasons thanks to an 18-7-3 record. It marked the 8th straight year SMU won at least 15 games. Unfortunately, the Huskies were unable to take advantage of their first round bye and fell to Moncton in 4 games in the conference semi-finals, managing only a single goal in each of the last three games on the series.

As their record might indicate the Huskies finished near the top of the league in most categories, such as goals per game (3rd at 3.71), goals against per game (2nd at 2.86), shots per game (2nd at 31.96), shorthanded goals (3rd with 8), and save percentage (3rd at 0.902). Their power play, which was one of the best the conference had ever seen for a number of years, was 4th last year (17.9 percent), but their penalty killing led the circuit at 86.6 percent, despite being the most penalized team in the league with 23.57 penalty minutes per game

HEAD TO HEAD: This is the first meeting of the season between the rivals. The X-Men will visit the AUC on November 3rd and January 25th. The V-Reds will return on January 12th. All games are scheduled for 7PM.

For the last handful of seasons there may not have been bigger rivals in the league than these two teams, due to the fact that they have annually ended up 1-2 in the standings come the end of the season and they have met twice for the AUS Championship during that span.

Since 2007-2008 the V-Reds have compiled a 14-5-1 regular season record, 2-0 exhibition record, and 3-2 playoff record against the Huskies. Of course many fans remember Kyle Bailey`s overtime penalty shot goal that clinched the 2008 AUS Championship in Halifax, just as we are sure many still remember the Huskies gaining their revenge the next season at the AUC with a convincing 5-1 victory in the third, and deciding, game of the 2009 AUS Finals. 

LAST SEASON: The Varsity Reds won 3 out of the 4 games against the Huskies last season. In the first game of the season on October 15th UNB skated to a solid 3-1 victory at the AUC. The two teams would meet a week later in Halifax with the V-Reds once again coming out on top, this time by a 4-2 count. UNB would win their third straight over the Huskies, 3-2, on January 7th in dramatic fashion. Falling behind 2-1 only three minutes into the final period the V-Reds got a tying goal from Jonathan Harty at 10:58 and then the winning goal by Kyle Bailey on the power play goal with only 19 seconds remaining. SMU would gain some measure of revenge with a 2-1 victory on home ice only six days later thanks to a Colby Pridham 3rd period goal. 

RECENT GAMES: UNB is coming off an up and down opening weekend on home ice. They extended their winning streak against STU with a 5-2 win on opening night only to turn around the next night and get out-skated and outplayed by Moncton, losing by an identical 5-2 score.

The Huskies are out to a very similar start to their season. They also defeated their cross-city rival -  Dalhousie - 5-2 in their home opener on Friday night. They followed that up the next night with a 5-3 setback on the road at the hands of the St. FX X-Men. SMU entered the third period trailing 3-1, tied it up with 2 goals in 35 seconds in the early stages of the period, only to see the X-Men score two late to secure the victory.

This followed a pre-season that seen the Huskies pick up wins over the X-men and Carleton Ravens in their first two exhibition games. They then lost a pair of one goal contests to OUA's UQTR Patriotes and Queen's Golden Gaels. SMU ended their pre-season schedule with s winning record after blanking Dalhousie 2-0

WHO TO WATCH FOR ON SAINT MARY'S: The Huskies did not lose a lot from last year's team in terms of number of players (just 5), but they did lose their two leading scorers in captain Colby Pridham (14 goals, 16 assists) and 5th year senior Cam Fergus (8g, 18a). However, they return their    next fifteen highest point-getters from last season including Cory Tanaka (26 points), Lucas Bloodoff (19), Matt Tipoff (18), Chris McKinnon (17), and Brad Smith (15). While Pridham's team-leading 14 goals is a big loss SMU had a balanced attack last year with 20 different guys finding the back of the net. Guys like Tanaka, Bloodoff, Smith, and Stephen Johnston (9 points in 15 games last year) will be looked upon for increased production while McKinnon will be looking to get back to his 2010-2011 form (28 points in 23 games). The offense should be boosted by the official arrival of Ryan Hillier, the former Halifax Mooseheads star and 3rd round NHL draft pick, who "redshirted" with the team last season. The Huskies also return most of their defence, with Justin Wallingford (15 points) and sophomores Jamie Doornbosch (14) and Michael D'Orazio (13) most likely seeing the most ice time. D-man Kyle Pereira is SMU's lone major junior recruit this season and should move up the depth chart quickly. Anthony Peters will be the undisputed starter this year after splitting duties with the departed Neil Conway last season. Conway was solid in his 3 years at SMU, posting a GAA of 2.34, 2.21, and 2.77 during his time as a Husky. However, Peters emerged as the go-to-guy late last year,  posting a conference-leading 0.915 save percentage and in all 4 playoff games.Chris Perugini is the back-up, having finished his junior career in the OJHL after spending 4 seasons in the OHL.

WHO TO WATCH FOR ON UNB: It will no doubt be an emotional night for Colby Pridham. The Saint Mary's graduate, who scored 96 points over the previous 4 seasons with the Huskies, will be playing against his former team for the first time. It will be interesting to see the reception he receives from the crowd, especially considering he now plays for one of SMU's bigger rivals.

Also, a number of V-Reds will be looking to get back on track after a rough outing last time out against Moncton. This includes the top line of Tyler Carroll, Cam Braes and Chris Culligan, who torched STU for 10 points on opening night only to be held scoreless with 6 shots and a -2 rating against the Aigles Bleus. The goaltending and defence will also be under the microscope after a game in which they allowed 5 goals on only 23 shots and gave up numerous odd-man rushes. 

FOLLOW ALONG: The game will be web-cast here. You can also follow Live Stats of the game here. UNBHockey on Twitter will be providing updates as well.  

Acadia at St. Thomas in the Tommies first game at the new Grant*Harvey Centre
UPEI at St. FX
Dalhousie at Moncton