Sunday, February 15, 2015

V-Reds, X-Men To Renew Rivalry

When the Varsity Reds begin their quest for the AUS title later this week the first team standing in their way will be a familiar opponent - the St. FX X-Men. This will be the 8th time the two teams have met in the playoffs since 2000-2001, the most common playoff opponent for the V-Reds during that span. UNB has gone 14-10 (10-3 at home, 4-7 on road) in winning 5 out of the previous 7 series.

Here is the breakdown:

2000-2001: Lost 2 game to 1 in semi-finals
2002-2003: Won 3 game to 1 in finals
2004-2005: Won 2 games to 0 in quarter-finals
2005-2006: Won 2 games to 1 in quarter-finals
2006-2007: Won 3 games to 1 in semi-finals
2009-2010: Lost 3 games to 0 in semi-finals
2010-2011: Won 3 games to 2 in finals

Of course, none of that has any bearing on the next two weeks. More importantly, the Varsity Reds (22-4-2) won all four of the match-ups with the 4th ranked X-Men (17-9-2) this year, winning 5-2 on October 18th and 3-0 on January 16th at the AUC and 3-2 on October 31st and 3-2 in overtime on November 22nd in Antigonish.

A few key stats and facts to keep in mind this series:

- The X-Men only ranked 5th in the league with 84 goals scored (to UNB's 118), but they were 2nd in the league in goals allowed with 61 (to UNB's 60).
- St. FX led the league with a 0.921 save percentage.
- Starting goaltender Drew Owsley led the league in games (24) and minutes (1445) played while finishing 2nd in the league with a 2.28 GAA and 3rd with a 0.917 save percentage.
- The X-Men received the most power play opportunities in the league (157) and scored 31 power play goals, which accounted for 37% of their total goals scored.
- Defenceman Blake Gal tied for the league lead in goals by a d-man with 11, including 6 on the power play (t-3rd amongst all skaters).
- They led the league in fewest shorthanded goals against (17), fewest times shorthanded (125), and penalty killing percentage (86.4%).
- Michael Kirkpatrick led the team in scoring with 34 points (9 goals, 25 assists), but their next highest scorer was Robert Slaney with only 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists). They only had 11 players reach double digits in points.
- By comparison, UNB had 6 players reach the 20 point plateau and 16 players hit at least 10 points.

I expect the V-Reds to carry the majority of play and hold an advantage in shots on goal this series but, like is so often the case, it appears that special teams and goaltending will play a major role in this series. We have seen the X-Men win numerous games, despite getting out-played and out-shot by a considerable margin, by taking advantage of limited opportunities and getting a few lucky bounces and then clamping down defensively. The V-Reds out-shot the X-Men 141-68 this year while out-scoring them 14-6. They did manage a good number of power play opportunities (22), but only converted 4 times for an 18% success rate. They held the X-Men power play in check however, only allowing 3 goals on 26 chances (88.4%). The Varsity Reds would be wise to stay out of the penalty box this series and if they do that and are able to at least keep the special teams even, like they did in their 4 regular season match-ups, I like their chances in what should be a very close series.


Your Prediction?

UNB in 3
UNB in 4
UNB in 5
St. FX in 3
St. FX in 4
St. FX in 5
Poll Maker