Friday, February 27, 2015

UNB In The AUS Finals, Against Acadia, Predictions

With their 6-3 victory last night over the St. FX X-Men in the 5th and deciding game of the AUS semi-finals the Varsity Reds have moved on to their 15th AUS Finals appearance since 1973, and 9th under current head coach Gardiner MacDougall. Here is how they have fared historically:

1984: Defeated Moncton 2 games to 0
1993: Lost to Acadia 2 games to 0
1994: Lost to Acadia 2 games to 0
1997: Defeated Acadia 2 games to 0
1998: Defeated Acadia 2 games to 1
2000: Defeated Acadia 3 games to 1
2003: Defeated St. FX 3 games to 1
2006: Lost to Acadia 3 games to 0
2007: Lost to Moncton 2 games to 0
2008: Defeated Saint Mary's 2 games to 0
2009: Lost to Saint Mary's 2 games to 1
2011: Defeated St. FX 3 games to 2
2012: Defeated Moncton 3 games to 0
2013: Defeated Saint Mary's 2 games to 1

Overall: 23-17, 9 series wins and 5 series losses
Under MacDougall: 14-11, 5 series wins and 3 series losses

- UNB's 9 AUS titles since 1984 are the most in the conference, ahead of the 6 won by both Moncton and Acadia.

- UNB's 13 AUS titles all-time puts them in a 2nd place tie with Saint Mary's, well behind the 24 won by St. FX.

- This will be the 12th time since 1984 the V-Reds and Axemen have met in the playoffs, including the 6th time since MacDougall became coach. Acadia is MacDougall's 2nd most frequent playoff opponent after St. FX (8 series). Interestingly, only one of the previous 5 meetings has taken place in the finals.

Here is the rundown:

1984: Won 2 games to 1 in semi-finals
1993: Lost 2 games to 0 in finals
1994: Lost 2 games to 0 in finals
1997: Won 2 games to 0 finals
1998: Won 2 games to 1 in finals
2000: Won 3 games to 1 in finals
2001: Won 2 game to 1 in quarter-finals
2005: Lost 2 games to 0 in semi-finals
2006: Lost 3 games to 0 in finals
2009: Won 3 games to 0 in semi-finals
2011: Won 3 games to 1 in semi-finals

Overall: 17-13, 7 series win and 4 series losses
Under MacDougall: 8-7, 3 series wins and 2 series losses
In Finals: 7-9, 3 series wins and 3 series losses 

- However, like we said against St. FX, none of the what you just read means anything come Monday night. The Axemen battled UNB all year for the top spot in the conference, ultimately finishing 3 points back with a 20-5-3 record, and both teams spent much of the year ranked in the top-3 nationally. Acadia was 3rd in the league in goals scored (111, 7 back of UNB) and 4th in goals allowed (76 to UNB's 60). However, they have a great power play (2nd at 20.9%), a good penalty kill (4th at 82.5%). and plenty of experience thanks to last year's AUS title and University Cup appearance. They also feature 4 of the top 10 scorers in the league in Brett Thompson (2nd with 38 points including league-leading 19 goals), Mike Cazzola (6th with 32 points), rookie Zach Franko (8th with 30 points), and reigning CIS player of the year Liam Heelis (10th with 26 points). High scoring defenceman Chris Owens (20 points in 25 games) is also someone the V-Reds need to keep a close eye on.

The Axemen took 3 out of the 4 meetings between the two teams this year, with 3 of the games going into overtime. They won 4-3 in OT at home on October 24th, 4-3 in OT at the AUC on November 15th, and 4-1 in Wolfville on January 24 before the V-Reds got a slight measure of revenge with a 2-1 OT victory in Fredericton on January 30th.

Overall, expect this series to be just as tight as the series against the X-Men. These two teams are very close, as the regular season meetings showed, and it is unlikely UNB will be able to out-shoot the Axemen or control play to quite the same degree that they did against St. FX. Once again, special teams will be key. The V-Reds got by the X-Men despite an ineffective power play due in large part to an exceptional penalty kill. Just like I said in the semi-final preview, the key for the Varsity Reds will be to keep the special teams play fairly even and have goaltender David Shantz make all of the saves he needs to. It will also be important to contain Acadia's top two lines as their top 5 goal scorers accounted for 64 goals this year, or 58% of their offense. By comparison, UNB only got 52 goals (44% of their offense) from their top 5 goal scorers. The V-Reds have a much more balanced and deeper offense, as evident by having 13 different players score at least 5 goals this year compared to only 7 for Acadia, and that could be a significant advantage as they have a number of guys who have proven that they can score at any given time. The 3rd and 4th lines could play a vital role in the outcome of this series. In the end, I believe that the Varsity Reds balance and depth, to go along with their relentless forecheck, will wear down the Axemen just enough to lead UNB to a narrow series victory.


Now it's your turn. Who do you got?

Who Will Win The AUS Championship

UNB in 2
UNB in 3
Acadia in 2
Acadia in 3
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Special thanks to the RedSea Database