Friday, March 13, 2015

UNB vs. Guelph - Preview, Prediction, Poll

The University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds will be be looking for their 9th National Championship game appearance when they face the upstart Guelph Gryphons in the University Cup  semi-finals tomorrow afternoon in Halifax. The game is scheduled for 12PM and will be shown live on Sportsnet 360.

This will be only the 3rd time these two schools have met with each team having won once. The Gryphons defeated the V-Reds 4-3 in the 1997 University Cup final in Toronto in what was UNB's first ever title game appearance. The V-Reds then topped Guelph 4-2 at the 2010 Fall Classic at the AUC.

The Gryphons are currently in the midst of one of the greatest Cinderella runs we have seen in recent memory. They went 3-10-3 in the first half of the regular season, which included a 0-7-1 mark in their last 8 games before the Christmas break. However, they had some bad luck in the process, going 0-8-0 in one goal games. As we all know, luck in sports tends to even out over time and Guelph, not surprisingly, turned it around in the 2nd half as they won 8 out of their 11 games which included a 3-1-0 record in one goal games. They ended the season 11-13-3 overall and finished 6th place in the OUA West division. 
Some key regular season numbers for the Gryphons:

- ranked 13th in the country with 3.70 goals per game
- ranked 23rd with 3.48 goals allowed per game
- ranked 13th with a 19.3 power play percentage
- ranked 24th with a 79.8 penalty killing percentage
- tied for 3rd with 5 shorthanded goals scored
- averaged 35.19 shots per game
- ranked in the Top Ten twice in 20 polls this season
- highest ranking was #4 in the final poll

The Gryphons kept up their 2nd half performance into the playoffs as they knocked off Waterloo in 3 games (after losing the first game), knocked out Toronto in 3 games after once again losing the first game, swept regular season champion Windsor in two games, and then won the OUA Championship with a 4-0 victory over the UQTR Patriotes in the Queen's Cup. This run propelled the Gryphons to their first University Cup appearance since capturing their only National Championship in school history in 1997 when they beat UNB in the finals.

The Gryphons have been led by the outstanding goaltending of conference All-Rookie team member Andrew D'Agostini. Despite unspectacular numbers in the regular season (20 games, 3.25 GAA, 0.901 save percentage) he has been absolutely lights out in the playoff. He shut out the high powered Patriotes in the OUA final and then continued his strong play by stopping 42 out of 43 shots in the Gryphons University Cup opener against Calgary on Thursday.

Offensively the Gryphons rely on former Woodstock Slammer forward Nick Huard who had 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) and was rewarded for his efforts by being named a 2nd Team OUA West All-Star. The V-Reds will also need to keep an eye on forwards Carlos Ametsoy (10 goals, 16 assists), Robert De Fulviis (14 goals, 12 assists), and Teal Burns (7 goals, 16 assists). MacKenzie Nichol led their defencemen in scoring with 18 points, including 6 goals.

At the end of the day I think it is safe to say that, much like their first game against Windsor, it would have to be considered a tremendous upset if the V-Reds were to lose to the Gryphons. One has to think Guelph, and Dagostini more specifically, is due for a bad game after such an incredible stretch. They aren't as bad as they showed in the 1st half, but they probably aren't quite as good as they have shown during this 8-2 playoff/University Cup stretch either. They were in the bottom half of the nation in goals against and I think UNB's depth and constant forecheck and pressure will be too much for the Gryphons defense to handle for 60 minutes. The V-Reds are usually good at exploiting weaker defensive teams so unless Dagostini plays out of his mind one would have to think the V-Reds will be able to put some goals on the board. Guelph's special teams haven't been anything outstanding this year either which bodes well for UNB's rejuvenated power play and their penalty kill, which has been great since the AUS playoffs started. Unfortunately for the Gryphons, I think their magical run ends tomorrow afternoon and the V-Reds will be moving on to another National Championship game on Sunday evening.

What do you guys think?

Who wins?

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