Friday, November 10, 2017

V-Reds Take Round One Versus X-Men

The #2 nationally ranked University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds built a 4-1 lead and held on for an important 5-3 victory over the visiting St. FX X-Men tonight in front of a big crowd at the AUC. It was the first meeting between the rivals since last year’s AUS Final. The 10-0-1 V-Reds hand St. FX their first regulation loss of the season and extend their lead over the second place X-Men to three points.

The game looked like it might be a blow-out as the Varsity Reds out-shot the X-Men 15-1 over the first fifteen minutes and, in the process, grabbed a 2-0 lead. The home side struck just 1:56 into the game when Brandon Hope gave up a juicy rebound off of a Matt Murphy shot right to Chris Caissy in the slot, who deposited it into the wide open cage. Randy Gazzola also picked up an assist on the goal. Dylan Willick (Brace, Bennett) doubled the lead at 7:54 when he backhanded a shot from the top of the crease over a sprawled out Hope and into the top of the net. The X-Men responded at 15:14 and cut the lead in half on the their third shot of the game. A point shot off of a face-off win made its way through a number of bodies and Bryson Cianfrone, standing in front of Alex Dubeau, was able to deflect it past the V-Reds netminder. UNB would take the 2-1 lead into the break after out-shooting the X-Men 18-5 in the opening period.

The two teams played through an entertaining, although scoreless, 2nd period. Each team had a couple of power play opportunities and the V-Reds had a goal waved off late in the period due to a Matt Boudens interference penalty. Shots in the period were 16-7 for UNB.

The Varsity Reds built a 4-1 lead in the opening minutes of the 3rd period and looked well on their way to putting the game away. At 1:17 Kris Bennett (LeBlanc) used a defender as a screen to beat Hope with a wrist shot from the left face-off dot to make it 3-1 and then, at 4:44, Oliver Cooper (Pomerleau, Brace) slid in a backhanded shot on a wraparound to give the V-Reds a three goal cushion. However, as the X-Men have shown a number of times this season, they are resilient and were able to answer both goals, due in part to some undisciplined play from UNB and a fortunate call. At 6:46 Kristoff Kontos picked up a big rebound in the slot and hammered it home for a power play goal to make it 4-2. Exactly six minutes later, with Colin Suellentrop off for 10 and 2 for hitting to the head, Michael Clarke picked up the puck at the V-Reds blue line on a play that was clearly offside, but not called, and quickly found Adam Stevens for a short break. Stevens went forehand to backhand to beat Dubeau and cut the deficit back to one at 4-3. Shortly after the goal the X-Men had a glorious chance to tie the game with Kontos picking up a rebound and staring at a wide open cage, but Dubeau made the save of the game, diving across the crease save to preserve the lead. The X-Men's momentum didn't last long though, as Peter Trainor (Caissy, Boudens) gave UNB some much needed insurance less than two minutes later, firing a laser beam short side past Hope's ear and into the top corner at 14:30. St. FX pulled their goalie for the final 88 seconds of the game but to no avail, as the Varsity Reds held on for the 5-3 win. UNB held an 11-10 shot advantage in the period.

- Once again, Christopher Clapperton was the lone scratch for UNB. The X-Men were playing two men short, due in large part to having three players suspended after instigating a brawl against Acadia last week.

- Shots in the game were 45-22 for the Varsity Reds. Bennett had a game-high 8 shots on goal.

- UNB was 0 for 5 on the power play. St. FX second ranked power play struck twice on 7 opportunities against the V-Reds league-leading penalty kill.

- Caissy, Brace, and Cianfrone were named the game's three stars.

- UNB won 38 out of 64 face-offs. Mark Simpson had the best night with 14 wins in 22 chances.

- The announced attendance was 3374 on Southside Elementary Schools Night and Home Depot Night. The actual attendance was much lower, but it was still the biggest crowd of the season thus far.

- Dubeau improves to 8-0-1 on the season.

- After winning their first 8 games of the season, St. FX is 0-1-2 in their last 3.

- UNB and the 9-0-0 Alberta Golden Bears are the only two teams in the country to have not yet lost in regulation time.

- Trainor's goal was his first regular season marker since January 27th, 2016.

- UNB has won 15 straight regular season home games against St. FX. The last time the X-Men won a regular season game at the AUC was February 12th, 2010, when they handed the 26-0-0 V-Reds their first loss of the season.

- Of course, the X-Men have won the last two playoff games between the two at the AUC.

- Elsewhere around the AUS last night, Acadia got some key players back from injury/suspension and routed Moncton 6-1 in Wolfville and UPEI rallied for a critical 5-4 home win over Dalhousie.

- The Varsity Reds are back on home ice tonight as they take on Dalhousie. Game time is 7PM.