Tuesday, February 28, 2017

V-Reds Advance To Finals

The undermanned Saint Mary's Huskies gave a valiant effort, but in the end it wasn't quite enough as the #1 ranked University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds survived a scare with a 2-1 victory in game 4 of the best 3-of-5 semi-final series. With the win the V-Reds take the series 3 games to 1 and set up a rematch of last year's AUS and U Sports final with the St. FX X-Men.

- For the second consecutive night UNB opened the scoring. Matt Murphy made a beautiful stretch pass up the middle of the ice, springing Christopher Clapperton for a breakaway. Clapperton went forehand to backhand to beat Cole Cheveldave for a 1-0 lead 11:57 into the game. Randy Gazzola also picked up an assist on the goal, his third of the postseason.

- The Huskies tied the game with just under a minute left in the first period on a similar play. Anthony Repaci found Hunter Garlent, who had a step on the defense, with a pass through the neutral zone and Garlent skated in on a semi-breakaway, beating Etienne Marcoux with a quick snap shot through his legs.

- After more than five periods of having glorious chance after glorious chance turned away, the Varsity Reds took the lead 3:07 into the 3rd period thanks to a fortunate bounce. While killing a penalty Mark Simpson (Mignardi) carried the puck up the ice and was joined by a pair of teammates to make it a 3-on-2 rush. Simpson fumbled the puck in the slot just enough to allow another Husky to catch up and help out defensively and it looked like a missed opportunity. In a desperation move Simpson tried to find a teammate to his left with a cross-slot pass, but the puck bounced off a defenders skate and past Cheveldave to give UNB a 2-1 lead.

- The fortuitous goal ended up being the series-clinching tally as the Varsity Reds held the fort the rest of the way. Saint Mary's pulled their goalie with just over a minute remaining and were able to generate a couple of great chances, but Marcoux stood tall to preserve the victory.

- Cameron Brace and Mike Thomas drew back in the line-up at the expense of Cameron Critchlow and Stephen Anderson. Oliver Cooper and Peter Trainor remained out.

- Saint Mary's once again played with only 14 skaters.

- Shots in the game favoured UNB 36-11. The V-Reds out-shot the Huskies 164-64 in the series.

- Face-offs also favoured UNB, 46-37.

- The Varsity Reds power play has gone cold for probably the first time all season, going 0 for 6 in the game and 1 for 18 in the series. Their penalty killing remained excellent though as they killed off all four of the Huskies opportunities with the man advantage. They killed off 21 out of 23 penalties in the series and scored three shorthanded goals.

- After being held without a power play goal in only 5 of their first 28 regular season games, UNB has been shutout on the power play in 5 out of the last 6 games (the final two games of the regular season + 3 out of 4 games in this series).  5 out of their 10 scoreless games this season have come against Saint Mary's.

- The V-Reds will now face rival, and defending conference champions, St. FX in the best 2-of-3 AUS Final. Of course, the X-Men swept UNB 2 games to 0 in the final last year before the Varsity Reds exacted their revenge with a 3-1 win in the University Cup final. The schedule has yet to be released, but we do know UNB will be hosting game 1, and game 3 if necessary, at the AUC. It is likely to get started sometime this weekend.

- The Huskies will now regroup and get ready to face the Acadia Axemen in a best 2-of-3 bronze medal series to determine the third, and final, AUS representative at the University Cup.