The #1 ranked University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds received a better effort from the visiting Saint Mary's Huskies tonight, but the V-Reds pulled away for a 7-3 victory to take a 2 games to 0 series lead in the best 3-of-5 AUS semi-final.
After a scoreless first period in which UNB out-shot SMU 13-6, the two teams exploded for six goals in the middle frame. The Varsity Reds opened the scoring at 3:48 when Randy Gazzola floated a shot from the blue line into the top corner after a clean face-off win by Cam Braes and then doubled their lead just 95 seconds later after Rob Mignardi (Halley, Beauvillier) found himself all alone in front of the net to redirect a centering pass. However, just when it looked like the game was going to turn into a rout, the shorthanded Huskies showed their resiliency by tying the game up with two quick goals of their own - the first by Anthony Repaci, converting a beautiful feed from AUS rookie of the year Hunter Garlent on a 2-on-1 at 7:32, and then by Francis Menard, firing the puck into a wide open net from the side of the cage at 10:20, just seconds after their power play had expired. Although it may have seemed improbable, the game was tied just over halfway through. The V-Reds quickly extinguished any momentum the Huskies may have been building, though, as Stephen Anderson dug the puck out of the SMU corner after a defender had blown a tire and found Chris Caissy streaking down the slot. Caissy made an nice deke before roofing the puck up and over Cole Cheveldave to restore the lead at 11:12. The turning point of the game came at 15:58. UNB took three penalties in a 3:01 span, forcing them to kill off an 11 second and then 48 second 5-on-3. Just after killing off the latter two man disadvantage Matt Boudens came out of the penalty box, went in to the offensive zone on the forecheck, and got hauled down without a call (much to the chagrin of the large crowd who had witnessed five straight SMU power plays at that point). Boudens stuck with the play and forced a turnover, gaining control of the puck in front of the net and roofing it for a shorthanded goal to extend the lead to 4-2. The period would end with the Huskies holding an 11-10 shot advantage.
The V-Reds finally got a chance on the power play - only their second of the game up to this point - in the early going of the 3rd period and it only took 7 seconds for Philippe Maillet (Mignardi, Clapperton) to jam the puck in during a scramble in front to make it 5-2. More penalty trouble for UNB led to the Huskies getting that one back. Just 4 seconds after killing off another 5-on-3 Anthony Repaci poked the puck past Etienne Marcoux for a power play goal that was made worse when Jordan Murray took an unsportsmanlike penalty at the same time, sending the Huskies right back to the man advantage. The Varsity Reds penalty killing came through with the big kill to keep it a two goal game and they put it away with a pair of goals in the final two minutes. Maillet (Critchlow, Petgrave) notched his second of the night into an empty net tally at 18:05 and Matt Murphy (Anderson) put the icing on the cake when he spun and fired a loose puck from the slot past Cheveldave at 19:21. Shots in the period were 15-6 for UNB.
- The V-Reds went with the same line-up as last night as Cam Brace, Mike Thomas, Oliver Cooper, and Peter Trainor were all scratched.
- The Huskies played with only 13 skaters.
- Shots ended up 38-23 for UNB.
- Etienne Marcoux stopped 20 shots out of 23 to pick up the victory.
- Saint Mary's went 1 for 9 on the power play while UNB scored once on only three opportunities.
- UNB won 42 out of 79 face-offs.
- Mignardi, Repaci, and Boudens were named the game's three stars.
- Attendance was a solid 2986.
- UNB has now won 9 out of their last 10 playoff games at the AUC.
- They have won 8 straight home games over the Huskies.
- They are 20-0-0 at home this season.
- The St. FX X-Men have also grabbed a 2-0 series lead as they defeated Acadia 4-2 tonight in Wolfville in the other semi-final.
- UNB will look to punch their ticket to the AUS Final on Monday night when game 3 goes in Halifax. Game time is scheduled for 7PM.