Wednesday, February 14, 2018

U Sports Top Ten: V-Reds Head Into Playoffs #1

As conference playoffs get underway across the country beginning tonight - culminating with the University Cup, which begins a month from tomorrow - U Sports has released its latest men's hockey top ten rankings and the Varsity Reds have jumped back on top.

A perfect 2-0-0 weekend, including a 1st place-clinching victory over #3 ranked St. FX, allowed UNB to swap places with #2 Alberta. The V-Reds gained 10 first place votes and 145 points overall compared to Alberta's 5 and 140, respectively.

St. FX (106) just nudged out McGill (105) for 3rd spot with Saskatchewan (100) not too far behind.

The rest of the top ten includes Guelph (68), Saint Mary's (49), Acadia (45), Queen's (27), and UBC (16), who make their first appearance in the rankings since November 2015.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Varsity Reds Wrap Up Season With Win

In their final game of the regular season, the defending University Cup champion University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds topped the visiting Dalhousie Tigers 4-1 in what was a rather uneventful contest, especially in wake of the emotionally-charged game against St. FX a night earlier. The win concludes a 24-2-4 season for the V-Reds while the Tigers finish in 6th place with a 9-20-1 record.

- Chris Caissy (Pomerleau, Boudens) opened the scoring for the home side at 9:58 with his first regular season goal since November 24th after breaking down the left side, collecting his own rebound after his original try was stopped, and making a nice move to get the puck past Tigers goalie Jacob Fancy.

- The V-Reds gained some breathing room midway through the 2nd period with a pair of goals. At 9:13 Cameron Brace (Bennett, Goulet) roofed a centring pass in tight and then the same trio hooked up again 4:46 later with Bennett bringing the puck out of the corner and powering to the front of the net and sliding it along the ice and in. An Andrew Shewfelt goal while the teams were playing 4-on-4 brought the Tigers back within two goals at 3-1.

- Bennett scored his 2nd of the night - and UNB's last goal of the regular season - into an empty net with 39 seconds left to seal the 4-1 victory.

- Shots in the game were 29-20 for UNB with period totals of 11-4, 8-11, and 10-5.

- Marcus McIvor remained out of the line-up. Oliver Cooper was also out, most likely due to his game misconduct on Friday night.

- There were no power play goals scored in the game despite 6 chances for Dalhousie and 7 for the V-Reds.

- Rylan Parenteau made a regular season-high 19 saves as he improved to 9-0-0 in his rookie season. His 9 victories - including 5 against Dalhousie - tied him for 4th in the AUS.

- Bennett, Brace, and Fancy were the game's three stars.

- Attendance was 2314 on what was a messy night in the provincial capital.

- Prior to the game 5th year forward Mike Thomas was presented with the Brian Johnson Hockey Scholarship.

- Dylan Willick played in his 138th career regular season game, tying former team captain Kyle Bailey for most in school history.

- Bennett's 18 goals ranked 2nd in the conference and is the 2nd highest total by a V-Red in the last 7 years, behind only Philippe Maillet's 23 last year. It is the most goals for a UNB rookie since Ryan Lindsay potted 19 in 1997-1998. His 38 points are the most by a Varsity Reds rookie since Maillet put up 41 in his freshman campaign in 2013-2014.

- With fellow rookie Tyler Boland contributing 27 points (7 goals, 20 assists), it is the first time UNB has had a pair of rookies be this productive since 2007-2008 witu both Hunter Tremblay (50) and Kyle Bailey (28).

- UNB has won 11 out of their last 12 "season closers". It is the 9th straight year they have won their final home game of the regular season.

- The rest of the AUS playoff picture cleared up with Acadia's 3-2 overtime win in Moncton, which moved the Axemen into 3rd place by virtue of their 3-2 record versus Saint Mary's this season. UPEI blew out St. FX 5-0 on the island for their 6th win in 8 games in a game that was meaningless as far as the standings were concerned.

- Here is how the final 2017-2018 standings look:

UNB: 24-2-4 = 52 points
SFX: 22-4-4 = 48
ACA: 18-10-2 = 38
SMU: 18-10-2 = 38
UPEI: 11-18-1 = 23
DAL: 9-20-1 = 19
UdeM: 3-24-3 = 9

- This means the best 2-of-3 quarter-finals will pit #3 Acadia against #6 Dalhousie and #4 Saint Mary's against #5 UPEI. UNB will then face the lowest remaining seed in the best 3-of-5 semi-finals while St. FX will get the highest remaining seed.

- For all the talent and production the Varsity Reds lost after their incredible 2016-2017 season, remarkably they finished the regular season with just one fewer point than they did last year when they went 25-2-3.

- UNB will be back in action on Thursday, February 22nd when they host game 1 of their semi-final series against a yet-to-be-determined opponent. Game 2 is set to go the next night. Both games are scheduled for a 7PM start.

Friday, February 9, 2018

V-Reds Make It 11 Straight Pennants

In a game that featured a playoff-like atmosphere and intensity, the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds overcame a slow start to defeat the visiting St. FX X-Men 5-2 on the 4th annual Military Appreciation Night tonight at the AUC. The win clinches an impressive 11th straight regular season title for the 23-2-4 Varsity Reds while the second place X-Men fall to 22-3-4.

The game began tentatively as both sides felt each other out and failed  to get a single shot on goal through the first 3-4 minutes. As the game began to open up slightly, the X-Men broke through at 5:19 when Mark Tremaine got the puck at the hash marks in the slot and put the puck off the post and past Alex Dubeau. After a UNB power play just after the goal failed to yield anything, St. FX was awarded a 26 second 5-on-3 advantage midway through the period. In what may have been the turning point in the game, the V-Reds not only killed it off, but also got a few decent chances themselves. Although they took the 1-0 deficit into intermission - and only mustered 6 shots on goal in the period to the X-Men's 5 - the penalty kill seemed to give them momentum as they started to tilt the ice in their favour.

UNB took this energy into the 2nd period and exploded for three unanswered goals. At 6:01 Stephen Anderson (Clapperton, Bennett) knotted the game while on the power play when he backhanded a shot from in close that got past Chase Marchand. This was followed up at 12:47 when Mark Simpson (Gazzola, Caissy) was able to bang the puck in after it looked like Marchand had it covered to give the V-Reds a 2-1 lead. Just under two minutes later UNB's power play struck for a second time in the period after Alexandre Goulet (LeBlanc), parked at the side of the net, knocked in the puck out of midair to make it 3-1. The Varsity Reds out-shot St. FX 15-5 in the frame.

Even though they were down by a pair of goals heading into the final twenty minutes, if there is one thing the X-Men have been great at this year is finding a way to come back in the 3rd period. So perhaps it wasn't surprising when Jagger Dirk's point shot caught the inside of the post to make it 3-2 only 82 seconds into the period. However, the V-Reds responded 2:21 later when Tyler Boland first made a nice back check and steal of the puck to break up a potential 4-on-2 rush up the ice and then - with a defender draped all over him in front of the net - was strong enough to swipe in a loose puck for a huge goal that restored UNB's two goal lead. An Olivier LeBlanc (Boland, Bennett) power play goal at 15:07 put the finishing touches on this one. UNB held a 16-9 shot advantage in the period.

- Marcus McIvor was out for a second straight game. Peter Trainor was also scratched.

- Shots in the game were 37-19 for UNB.

- The special teams played a key role in this game with UNB giving the X-Men a taste of their own medicine. St. FX entered the game with the league's best power play (27.6%) and penalty kill (92.6%) yet went 0 for 5 with the man advantage while surrendering 3 power play goals in 7 chances.

- There were a total of 28 penalties and 152 penalty minutes doled out in the game. Oliver Cooper and X-Men defenseman Aaron Hoyles combined for 64 penalty minutes alone and each received a game misconduct.

- The officiating was "interesting" to say the least. Late in the game Matt Murphy skated the puck behind the X-Men net only to be slashed, which drew a penalty, and then took a blatant stick across his head, which was somehow missed. Fortunately, after being down on the ice for a few moments he was able to skate off with what appeared to be no issue.

- UNB won 42 out of 78 face-offs with the usual suspects - Dylan Willick (14 out of 24) and Mark Simpson (9 out of 15) - once again leading the way.

- Randy Gazzola was named the recipient of the Fallen Soldier Award as the game's first star. Alexandre Goulet and X-Men Mark Tremaine were the game's second and third star, respectively.

- Attendance was 3372.

- This was defenceman Colin Suellentrop's 100th career regular season game. Over that time he has amassed 2 goals, 30 assists, and a remarkable plus/minus of +80. This includes a ridiculous +72 over his last three seasons spanning 74 games.

- Cameron Brace also played 100th regular season game. He has 86 points (38 goals, 48 assists) over that span.

- By virtue of finishing in first place. the V-Reds have assured themselves of home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. After previously securing a first round bye, they will play the lowest surviving seed from the quarter-finals in the best 3-of-5 semi-finals. Their first two playoff games will take place at the AUC on Thursday, February 15th and Friday, February 16th. St. FX also has a first round bye and will play the highest seed remaining after the quarter-finals.

- In the 11 straight seasons UNB has finished in 1st place, this is only the 2nd time St. FX has finished 2nd. They were also the runner-up in 2015-2016. The only other teams to finish 2nd have been Saint Mary's (5 times) and Acadia (4 times).

- In other AUS action tonight, Acadia pulled within two points of 3rd place Saint Mary's with a 3- 0 win over the Huskies in Wolfville and UPEI clinched 5th place after a 6-3 home win over Dalhousie.

- The only playoff positioning left to be determined is the race for 3rd place. With Acadia holding the tie-breaker over Saint Mary's, if they get two points against Moncton tomorrow night they will leapfrog the idle Huskies.

- The regular season concludes tomorrow night with a match-up against the Dalhousie Tigers. Game time is 7PM.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Axemen Snap Losing Streak With OT Win

The Acadia Axemen - mired in their longest losing streak in a decade - tied the game with 12 seconds left in regulation and then won it with a power play goal early into overtime, stunning the visiting University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds 4-3 tonight in Wolfville. UNB drops to 22-2-4 on the season and are now tied with St. FX for top spot in the AUS with a showdown between the two looming next Friday night in Fredericton.

- After Kyle Farrell gave the home side a 1-0 lead 5:35 into the game, Randy Gazzola (Bennett, Boland) squared the contest with a power play goal at the 1:31 mark of the 2nd period, skating down the half wall before cutting towards the net and putting the puck just inside the far post.

- Chris Clapperton gave UNB a 2-1 advantage at 6:16 of the 2nd period while shorthanded. Some nice forechecking pressure from Kris Bennett led to a turnover and loose puck near the side of the net and Clapperton was able to get a stick on it to poke it past Robert Steeves. However, Farrell knotted the game with his second of the night 8 minutes later, coming down the slot untouched and getting a pass from behind the net that he put in the top corner.

- Gazzola gave the V-Reds another lead 7:15 into the 3rd period when he jumped up into the rush and was found with a cross-ice pass from Dylan Willick. Gazzola's wrist shot eluded Steeves to give the visitors a 3-2 advantage. It looked like UNB was going to hold on for a big road win but Boston Leier was able to tie the game with the goalie pulled when he found the back of the net at 19:48. An interference penalty off of the ensuing face-off gave the Axemen a power play heading into the overtime.

- The Varsity Reds held the fort for the first minute or so of overtime and even generated a couple of scoring chances of their own while a man down. Bennett was denied on a partial breakaway and then fed Tristan Pomerleau for a nice chance in the slot, but as is so often the case in overtime, a good chance on one end is often followed by one at the other end and that was exactly what happened. The Axemen recovered the rebound and brought it back down the ice. The puck eventually ended up on the stick of Remy Giftopoulos at the lip of the crease and he was able to get the puck up and over a scrambling and out-stretched Alex Dubeau to give Acadia a much needed win.

- Shots in the game were 29-27 for Acadia.

- Peter Trainor and Matt Boudens were back in the line-up while Trey Lewis and Marcus McIvor were out.

- UNB was 1 for 4 on the power play. Acadia was 1 for 5.

- Farrell, Gazzola, and Giftopoulos were named the game's three stars.

- Attendance was 1905.

- Face-offs were almost even with UNB holding the slight 35-34 edge. Mark Simpson (13 out of 24) and Alexandre Goulet (11 out of 17) were the best performers.

- After not giving up more than 3 goals in any of their first 16 games of the regular season, the V-Reds have surrendered 4+ goals in 5 out of their last 12 games.

- All three games between these two teams in Wolfville this season went to overtime. The Axemen took the first meeting 3-2 on October 20th with UNB returning the favour on December 2nd with Matt Murphy scoring the winner in a 3-2 victory.

- 9 out of the last 18 regular season games between these two have gone to overtime. UNB is 3-6 in those games.

- This is the first time the V-Reds have lost 4 overtime games in a season since 2003-2004.

- UNB has now been victimized by a power play goal in overtime twice this year. St. FX used one in November 17th’s 3-2 win.

- In other games around the AUS, St. FX rebounded with a solid 5-2 home win over Moncton and Saint Mary's throttled UPEI 9-1 in Halifax.

- The Varsity Reds play their biggest game of the season at the AUC next Friday night when they host the St. FX X-Men. Both teams have their fate in their own hands as they can each clinch first place with a regulation win. Game time is 7PM.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Road Win Vaults V-Reds Into First

Moments after the Dalhousie Tigers put the finishing touches on a shocking 7-3 win over the U Sports #1 ranked St. FX X-Men, the #2 ranked University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds hung on for a wild 5-4 victory over the # 7 Saint Mary's Huskies tonight in Halifax to jump back into first place in the AUS. UNB is now 22-2-3 on the season, one point up on the 21-2-4 X-Men with each team having 3 games remaining.

Much like their meeting a few weeks ago at the AUC, it looked like UNB would put the game to bed early. They controlled play from the get-go and were finally rewarded with a pair of breakaway goals only 22 seconds apart late in the period. At 14:38 Tyler Boland (Bennett, Brace) got the puck at the Huskies blue line and took advantage of a defenceman who fell down to break in all alone on goaltender Eric Brassard, going backhand to forehand to slide the puck between Brassard's legs for his 6th goal of the year. Then at 15:00 Chris Clapperton (LeBlanc, McIvor) took a long stretch pass as he split the defence and went left to right to backhand the puck just inside the post to make it 2-0. However, the Huskies got back into it at 17:46 thanks to some good work in the offensive zone. After a battle in the corner Jake Coughler gloved the puck down and fed Calder Brooks in the slot for a quick snap shot that beat Alex Dubeau. UNB would take a 2-1 lead into the intermission after out-shooting Saint Mary's 11-5 in the period.

The Varsity Reds were able to restore their two goal lead early in the 2nd period while on the power play. UNB held the zone as the Huskies were looking to clear and the puck eventually found its way to Clapperton (Bennett, Anderson) all alone at the side of the net for the easy tap-in to make it 3-1 at 1:36. The Huskies then exploded for three goals in the next 7 minutes to take the lead. At 4:20 Thomas Stavert ripped a wrist shot from the slot to get Saint Mary's back within one. Just over two minutes later Alex Peters, while shorthanded, cleared the puck off the boards that took a favourable bounce into the neutral zone. Stephen Johnson tracked down the loose puck and got in behind the defence, beating Dubeau off the rush to tie the game. The Huskies would take their only lead of the night at 8:39 when Hunter Garlent was on the receiving end of a cross-ice pass down low that the superstar forward put in short side. Despite losing their lead, the V-Reds were able to quickly recover and tie the game just 1:21 later. Clapperton (Anderson, Suellentrop) came off the boards with the puck in the high slot and shot back against the grain, putting the puck off the post and in to complete the hat-trick. After the five goal flurry in the first half of the period there was no more scoring over the latter half as the two teams would remain tied 4-4 after forty minutes. Shots in the period were 19-12 for SMU.

After a wild first two periods, the 3rd period was a bit more tame. The V-Reds out-shot the Huskies 7-6 in the frame and Mark Simpson's unassisted goal - a harmless looking shot from the top of the face-off circle that deflected and skipped past Brassard at 9:42 - stood up as the game winner.

- Chris Caissy replaced Matt Boudens in the line-up. Peter Trainor was also out.

- Shots were 30 apiece.

- UNB was 1 for 6 on the power play. SMU was 1 for 5.

- The V-Reds won 47 out of 92 face-offs with Boland (12 out of 22) and Willick (11 out of 19) having the best night's in the dot.

- Attendance was 578.

- Simpson's goal broke a streak of 14 straight goals scored by the top-6 forwards. The last goal that wasn't scored by Clapperton/Goulet/Anderson/Boland/Brace/Bennett was a 3rd period tally by Olivier LeBlanc in UNB's 6-0 win over Acadia on January 20th.

- UNB improves to 9-10-3 at the Halifax Forum against SMU since 2010-2011.

- As previously mentioned, the Dalhousie Tigers defeated St. FX 7-3 in Antigonish for their 5th straight win. On the other end of  the spectrum, the Acadia Axemen dropped their 5th in a row with a 6-3 loss at the hands of the UPEI Panthers in Wolfville.

- The Varsity Reds hope to add to Acadia's recent struggles tonight when they travel down the highway to face the Axemen. Game time is 7PM and it can be seen at www.AUStv.ca.