Friday, February 3, 2017

UNB Fends Off X-Men

The University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds used a balanced attack and contributions from all four lines to wear down the St. FX X-Men in a gritty 5-3 road win tonight in Antigonish. The V-Reds 6th straight victory moves them to 22-2-3 on the season while the X-Men fall to 14-11-2 on the year.

The game could not have started any better for the Varsity Reds as Chris Caissy (Gazzola, Cricthlow) picked up a loose puck along the boards just inside the X-Men zone and found himself with a clear path to the net. Caissy broke in alone on goaltender Chase Marchand and backhanded a low shot into the far corner to give the visitors the lead just 14 seconds into the game. The game would grind to a screeching halt shortly after as the penalties started to mount. After five penalties within a 15 second span put the teams four-on-four St. FX responded to tie the game - on a delayed penalty, naturally - when Michael Clarke one-timed a cross-slot pass from just below the face-off circle that beat Alex Dubeau glove side. Just 81 seconds, with the teams still playing four players aside, the X-Men struck again when the reigning AUS player of the year Eric Locke took a centering pass from behind the net and got a couple of whacks at the puck from the lip of the crease before finally getting it past Dubeau. A potential turning point in the game came at 8:56 of the period when UNB took two penalties on the same play, giving St. FX a 5-on-3 advantage for a full two minutes. The V-Reds escaped with the one goal deficit intact and at 13:06 they were awarded a power play of their own. It only took 30 seconds to tie the game as Cam Braes rang the puck off the red iron from the slot, only to have Philippe Maillet fire in the rebound for his 21st goal and 50th point of the season. The game would remain deadlocked at two through the first twenty minutes with UNB holding an 11-9 shot advantage.

The V-Reds would get a great chance to take the lead in the latter part of the second period as they were awarded a two man advantage for 74 seconds, but they failed to generate anything significant on the power play. They did eventually regain the lead at 18:05 after a great forechecking shift to keep the puck in the offensive zone resulted in Mark Simpson batting a Dylan Willick rebound out of the air from in in close. UNB took a 3-2 lead into the intermission as both teams had 8 shots on goal in the period.

Like usual, the X-Men would not go away quietly and they tied the game back up three minutes into the 3rd period on the power play. Cameron Brace was sent off for a questionable penalty after an X-Men defender lost his balance and went hard into the boards and just 12 seconds later freshman forward Matt Needham took a nice cross-ice pass and made no mistake in roofing it up and over and sliding Dubeau. The V-Reds responded 2:32 later after some nice work down low. Cameron Critchlow dug the puck out from behind the net, spun around a defender, and found Rob Mignardi in the slot. Mignardi's shot was stopped by Marchand, but Dylan Willick was on the doorstep to bang home the rebound. UNB killed off a penalty just after the goal and then started to assert themselves the rest of the game, really taking it to the home side and controlling the play. Christopher Clapperton supplied the dagger at 17:27 after it looked the puck was going to be cleared, only to have it bounce off an X-Men player and back into the high slot where Clapperton wasted no time in spinning around and firing it past an off-guard Marchand. The X-Men pulled their goalie immediately after the goal and then received a power play with 1:36 to play, but with the exception of a great post to post save by Dubeau on the delayed penalty they weren't able to generate much until time expired. Shots in the period were 16-7 for the V-Reds.

- Cameron Brace returned from his suspension and was back in the line-up. Francis Beauvillier, Mike Thomas, Oliver Cooper, and Peter Trainor were scratched.

- UNB received a major scare in the first period when Jordan Murray had to be helped off the ice with what appeared to be a lower body injury after he got tied up with an X-Men player and went down awkwardly into the boards. He would later return and played the rest of the game without issue.

- Shots were 35-24 in the game for UNB.

- Alex Dubeau started his second straight game in goal and turned in a solid performance after giving up two quick goals. He is now 9-1-2 on the season with a 2.41 GAA and 0.886 save percentage.

- Both teams went 1 for 7 on the power play.

- UNB won 36 out of 68 face-offs.

- Mignardi, Michael Clarke, and Willick were named the game's three stars.

- Maillet becomes the 10th different player in UNB history to hit the 50 point plateau. It has been done 12 times previously with Hunter Tremblay turning the trick on three occasions, including being the last V-Red to do it when he notched 57 points in 2009-2010.

- The Varsity Reds went 4-0-1 against St. FX this season.

- Attendance was 867.

- The UPEI Panthers dealt Dalhousie a big blow to their playoff hopes with a 6-2 victory over the
 Tigers in Halifax. Dalhousie remains two points behind Moncton with UNB coming to town for a 7PM puck drop tonight.

- At the Winter Universiade Team Canada has moved on to the semi-finals after a 5-2 victory over Latvia this morning. They will now face Russia on Tuesday morning with a berth in the Gold Medal game on the line.