Mark Simpson played the role of hero as he scored a shorthanded goal with 45 seconds remaining in overtime to lift the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds to a 2-1 victory over the St. FX X-Men in a playoff-like game tonight at the AUC. UNB is now 15-2-2 on the season, maintaining a 7 point lead over the 12-6-1 Acadia Axemen.
After the two teams skated through a scoreless opening twenty minutes, despite the V-Reds peppering X-Men goalie Chase Marchand with 15 shots, it was the visitors getting on the board first at 10:12 of the second period. Forward Michael Clarke took a pass in the slot with his back to the net and spun around, firing the puck along the ice and between Etienne Marcoux's legs to give St. FX the 1-0 lead. UNB out-shot the X-Men 12-7 in the period, but trailed heading into the third.
As expected, the V-Reds came on strong in final period as they sought the tying goal. They were finally rewarded at 9:35 when Philippe Maillet spotted Matt Petgrave pinching in down the left side and fired a pass across the offensive zone that Petgrave snapped in. The shot appeared to fool Marchand, or he didn't see it, as the X-Men goalie hardly moved. The score would remain tied 1-1 after 60 minutes of play with UNB holding a 15-3 advantage in shots on goal in the period.
Things looked dire for the V-Reds in the 4-on-4 five minute overtime period. First, Petgrave took a delay of game penalty with only 0.8 seconds remaining in regulation and then, just 24 seconds after killing it off, UNB took a too many men on the ice penalty. However, Marcoux came up with some big saves to hold the fort, including robbing Kristopher Kontos at the side of the net early in overtime. With the second penalty winding down, rookie Mark Simpson broke up a play at the blue-line before chasing down a loose puck inside the X-Men zone. He gathered the puck and went in all alone on Marchand, beating him between the legs for the game winning goal. It was UNB's only shot on goal in the extra session compared to four for St. FX.
- Forwards Chris Caissy, Oliver Cooper, Mike Thomas, and Peter Trainor were all out of the line-up.
- Shots in the game were 43-21 for UNB.
- UNB won 38 out of 68 face-offs. Simpson (11 for 16) and Dylan Willick (10 for 15) led the way.
- Both teams were scoreless on four opportunities on the power play.
- Attendance was 2609.
- Players of the game were Marchand, Simpson, and Petgrave.
- Since St. FX ended UNB's pursuit of a perfect regular season with a 4-3 win at the AUC on February 12th, 2010, the Varsity Reds have won 14 straight regular season home games against their rivals from Antigonish.
- UNB is 31-0-1 in their last 32 regular season home games since November 28th, 2014. This includes a current streak of 20 in a row. The only blemish during that time is a 3-2 shootout loss to Acadia on October 30th, 2015.
- The V-Reds are 46-1-1 in their last 48 home games overall (exhibition + regular season + playoffs), including a perfect 13-0-0 mark so far this season. Their only loss was a 3-2 setback against ST. FX in game 1 of the AUS Finals last year.
- In other AUS action tonight the UPEI Panthers scored four goals in the 3rd period to pull away from Dalhousie 5-0 in Charlottetown while the Acadia Axemen scored four 3rd period goals of their own to pick up a big 4-1 road win over Saint Mary's.
- The Varsity Reds are back at the AUC tomorrow night when they host the Dalhousie Tigers. Game time is 7PM.