The University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds concluded another very successful regular season with an entertaining 3-1 victory over the visiting UPEI Panthers tonight at the AUC. UNB has now won nine straight games and finishes their first 30 game season in 1st place with a record of 25-2-3, including a perfect 15-0-0 at home. The Panthers head into the playoffs in 5th place on the heels of an 11-15-4 season.
UNB stifled their visitors in the opening period, out-shooting the Panthers 10-1 and grabbing a 1-0 lead. At 4:16 Christopher Clapperton spotted Philippe Maillet flying down the left wing and found the nation's leading scorer with a cross-ice saucer pass. Maillet had a lane to the net and all kinds of time to skate in and fire a wrist shot from the face-off circle past Panthers goalie Connor Wilkinson. Cam Braes had the other assist on the goal.
The Panthers responded with a much better period in the 2nd, holding a 14-13 shot advantage, but it was the Varsity Reds extending their lead at the 7:07 mark. Cam Critchlow came out of a scramble at the side of the net with the puck and found himself all alone in front. His shot was stopped but Mark Simpson followed the play and nudged the rebound just over the goal line for a 2-0 lead, which they would take into the 3rd period.
The V-Reds added an insurance goal 6:40 into the 3rd period when Randy Gazzola got the puck after a Stephen Anderson face-off win and navigated a low wrist shot through traffic that beat Michael Giugovaz, who entered the game after Wilkinson appeared to pull something while making a save earlier in the period. The Panthers were given some life at the mid-point of the period when they received a four minute power play and they were able to convert just 28 seconds into it to cut the deficit to 3-1. Sam Aulie took a pass up the middle and split the defense, going in all alone and beating Etienne Marcoux high glove-side to get UPEI on the board. UNB managed to kill off the back half of the penalty and two Panthers penalties in the final 6+ minutes essentially ended any hopes of a comeback. The V-Reds out-shot UPEI 16-9 in the period.
- Rob Mignardi was back in the line-up while Cameron Brace, Matt Boudens, Mike Thomas, and Peter Trainor were all out.
- Mignardi's return was short-lived, however. He left the game in the 2nd period and never returned after taking a hard hit in the neutral zone from former St. Thomas Tommie J.C. Campagna. Campagna received a 2 minute penalty for contact to the head and a 10 minute misconduct.
- Shots were 39-24 for UNB.
- After getting next to no action in the 1st period, Etienne Marcoux came up big over the final 40 minutes. Among his 23 saves on the night were a number of big stops, including a couple off of odd-man rushes.
- UPEI was 1 for 5 on the power play while UNB went scoreless on 6 attempts.
- UNB won 44 out of 68 face-offs.
- Attendance was 2213.
- Marcoux, Gazzola, and Aulie were the game's three stars.
- Before the game Jordan Murray was honoured for recently becoming the highest scoring defenceman in UNB history. Rob Mignardi was named the recipient of the Brian Johnson Family Scholarship.
- After dropping their first game to the Panthers this season (4-3 in a shootout), the V-Reds won the last four contests by a combined score of 19-5.
- UNB has had at least a nine game regular season winning streak in four straight seasons.
- For the 10th straight year the V-Reds have won their home season finale.
- This is the 3rd time in the last 10 years UNB has hit the 25 win plateau. They won 26 in 2007-2008 and 27 in 2009-2010. Of course, those were both in 28 game schedules.
- The last time the V-Reds had a perfect home regular season record was in 2010-2011 when they went 14-0-0. They are 28-0-1 at the AUC in regular season games over the last two seasons.
- In other AUS games tonight Saint Mary's defeated Dalhousie 4-1 and Acadia won a wild 8-5 affair over St. FX in Wolfville.
- The final AUS standings look like this:
UNB: 25-2-3 = 53 points
ACA: 20-8-2 = 42
SFX: 16-12-2 = 34
SMU: 15-14-1 = 31
UPEI: 11-15-4 = 26
UDM: 10-17-3 = 23
DAL: 8-19-3 = 19
- UNB and Acadia will receive 1st round playoff byes while St. FX/Moncton and Saint Mary's/UPEI will battle in the best-of-3 quarter-finals. Interestingly, UNB and Acadia were the only two AUS teams to outscore their opposition this season.
- The Varsity Reds next games will take place at the AUC on Thursday, February 23rd and Friday, February 24th in games 1 and 2 of the best-of-5 semi-finals. They will face the lowest ranked remaining team, either Saint Mary's, UPEI, or Moncton.