Saturday, February 6, 2016

Varsity Reds Wrap Up Top Spot

The University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds clinched 1st place in the AUS for the 9th consecutive season after a 7-4 victory over the visiting Acadia Axemen in an exciting, physical, penalty-filled, playoff-like home finale tonight at the AUC. With the win - UNB's 12th straight - the V-Reds are 21-3-2 on the season and will be ensured home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.

In a complete turnaround from a night ago when UNB and Saint Mary's skated through a scoreless opening period, the two teams combined for 5 goals in the 1st period tonight. The Axemen got on the board first 1:09 into the game when goaltender Etienne Marcoux couldn't control a bouncing puck off the end boards and Mike Cazzola took advantage, snapping the loose puck into the net. The V-Reds tied it while on the power play at 7:02 courtesy a Cameron Brace (Murray, Maillet) laser beam over Brandon Glover's shoulder and into the top left corner. The Axemen caught a bit of a break to regain the lead just 58 seconds later. Brett Thompson's dump-in hit Matt Petgrave up high, stunning the V-Reds defenceman and taking him out of the play. The puck came right back to Thompson and he found Boston Leier coming down the left side with a cross-ice pass. Leier wasted no time in firing the puck past a diving Marcoux. The goals kept coming with the Varsity Reds responding - again on the power play - 1:48 later. This time it was Chris Clapperton (Maillet, Murray) breaking free from the defense in the Axemen corner and driving towards the net, where he redirected a pass from the opposite side of the ice into the open side of the net. UNB took their first lead of the night at 12:35 on a broken play when a point shot was partially deflected, but came right to Rob Mignardi (Suellentrop, Petgrave) who was waiting at the side of the net to pounce on the loose puck and give UNB a 3-2 lead. Shots in the period favoured the V-Reds 14-7.

After scoring early in the 1st period the Axemen duplicated the feat with a power play goal at 1:29 of the 2nd period to tie the game once again. Marcoux thought he had the puck frozen between his pad and the post but Sam Fioretti had a couple whacks at it and eventually pushed it into the net to make it 3-3. The Varsity Reds took a 4-3 lead at 4:23 when Jordan Murray found Clapperton with a beautiful, long stretch pass through the center of the ice for a breakaway. Clapperton made no mistake in beating Glover blocker side for his 2nd goal of the evening - and 7th in 11 games since joining the team at Christmas. Matt Petgrave picked up his 2nd assist of the night on the goal. The V-Reds would make it 5-3 before the end of the period when Stephen Anderson took an innocent looking shot from near the blue line and along the boards. However, the rebound was kicked out right to Tyler Carroll, who was driving to the net. Carroll made no mistake to give UNB a two goal cushion at 15:07. Shots in the period were 12-7 for UNB.

The Varsity Reds would add another goal at 3:32 when Francis Beauvillier found Brace in front of the net for a quick snap shot past Glover to make it 6-3. It was Brace's 2nd goal of the night and 15th of the season, good for 2nd in the AUS. Brett Thompson's power play goal at 15:34 cut the deficit to 6-4 and gave the Axemen a flicker of hope, but any chance they had of a miracle comeback were extinguished with a Taylor MacDougall (Braes) empty net goal at 19:24 to cap the night's scoring. Acadia out-shot the V-Reds 12-9 in the period.

- Shots in the game were 35-26 for the Varsity Reds.

- Cameron Critchlow (suspended), Peter Trainor, Marcus McIvor, and Mike Thomas were all out of the line-up.

- As mentioned, it was a penalty-filled game with the two teams accounting for 31 infractions - including 5 10-minute misconducts - and 102 penalty minutes. UNB was 2 for 8 on the power play while Acadia was 2 for 7.

- UNB's 44 penalty minutes tonight gives them a CIS-leading 678 on the season (84 more than the next closest team).

- It appeared the Axemen were getting more and more frustrated as the game wore on. However, if there is one thing the V-Reds may need to get better at it, it is their discipline. There were a couple of occasions tonight where UNB took a retaliatory penalty that wiped out a potential power play.

- Brace, Murray, and Clapperton were the game's three stars.

- UNB dominated in the face-off circle, winning 42 out of 65 draws. Taylor MacDougall (14 out of 18) and Dylan Willick (10 out of 14) led the way.

- Brace had a game-high 8 shots on goal. No one else had more than 4.

- Axemen defenceman Stephen Woodworth will probably want to erase this game from his memory. He was -5 on the night.

- Attendance was 3127 on Home Depot Night. This pushed UNB's total home attendance to 32 237on the season, once again leading the CIS.

- Before the game a trio of players were honoured. 5th year defenceman Alex Wall was awarded the Don MacAdam Scholarship for performance and leadership. Meanwhile, 3rd year forward Dylan Willick and 5th year forward Taylor MacDougall were named recipients of the Punchy Walker Scholarship, given to the two senior players who have made significant contributions to the team's success.

- The V-Reds finished their home schedule with a 13-0-1 record, the 7th straight season they have won at least 12 home games. They are a ridiculous 88-7-3 in conference home games during that span.

- Interestingly, despite that gaudy record, they have had only one season (2010-2011) during this stretch in which they went a perfect 14-0-0.

- UNB improves to 23-0-3 in their last 26 home games against Acadia. The last time the Axemen beat UNB in regulation at the AUC was a 5-3 victory in game 3 of the AUS Finals on March 7th, 2006, which completed a three game sweep.

- Having said that, UNB has not beaten Acadia more than than twice in the last four regular seasons. They are only 7-4-5 in that span. 

- With Saskatchewan losing both of their games this weekend it would be shocking if the V-Reds weren't the new #1 team in the country when the latest top ten ranking are released on Tuesday.

- The UQTR Patriotes (22-3-1) are the only team in the country with a better record than UNB (21-3-2). Saskatchewan (21-5-0) and McGill (21-5-1) are the only other teams with more than 20 victories thus far.

- Elsewhere around the AUS tonight Moncton blanked Dalhousie 2-0 in Halifax to clinch the final playoff berth, St. FX hammered St. Thomas 7-1 at home to pull within a point of Acadia and set-up a huge game between the two teams Wednesday night in Antigonish, and Saint Mary's picked up a 6-2 road victory over UPEI.

- With two games remaining for each team the current AUS standings look like this: UNB (44 points), Acadia (38), St. FX (37), Saint Mary's (34), UPEI (25), Moncton (24), Dalhousie (20), and St. Thomas (5).

- UNB is back in action on Wednesday night when they travel up the hill to face St. Thomas at the Grant*Harvey Centre. Game time is 7PM.