Wednesday, March 7, 2018

V-Reds Bring Home AUS Championship

(Photo courtesy
The #1 ranked University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds picked a good time to play arguably their most impressive game of the season. The defending University Cup champions played a dominating puck possession and fore-checking game in a 5-0 victory over the St. FX X-Men tonight in Antigonish in game 2 of the best-of-3 AUS Final. With the win UNB sweeps the series, avenges losses in each of the last two AUS Finals, and captures their first conference championship since 2015 and 15th all-time.

The visitors opened the scoring while shorthanded at 14:58 of the 1st period when Mike Thomas (Willick, McIvor) pounced on a bobbled puck at the blue line and raced down the right wing before putting the puck in the far corner, quieting the sell-out crowd. This was the only goal of the period as the V-Reds out-shot the X-Men 11-4 in the frame.

The turning point of the game may have came in the early minutes of the 2nd period. After Alex Dubeau denied a breakaway opportunity at one end then Alexandre Goulet (Gazzola, Boland) brought the puck the other way and snapped a shot past Chase Marchand for a 2-0 advantage at 2:32. The V-Reds power play extended the lead just under 6 minutes later. An Olivier LeBlanc point shot hit a defenders stick and the puck dribbled down low to Chris Clapperton at the side of the net. The 3rd year forward beat Marchand five-hole to make it a 3-0 game, which they would carry into intermission. Shots in the period were 18-10 for UNB.

With only 20 minutes separating V-Reds and an AUS Championship, UNB completely shut-down and neutralized the X-Men in the 3rd period. They held a 15-5 advantage in shots on goal and added a pair of highlight-reel goals to boot. At 3:14 Cameron Brace (McIvor) picked up the puck in the neutral zone and skated down the right side, somehow finding a minuscule opening above Marchand's left shoulder from a sharp angle. Then, at 11:36, the Varsity Reds came into the offensive zone on a 3-on-2 rush. Mark Simpson dropped a pass to Chris Clapperton who peeled to the right before finding Matt Boudens with a slap-pass in the slot. Boudens iced the game by picking the left corner to make it 5-0. Dubeau and the defence took it from there, killing off a couple of late power plays to preserve the shut-out and put an exclamation point on a tremendous all-around game.

- As expected, Oliver Cooper received a suspension after being assessed a game misconduct in game 1 of the series. Trey Lewis was back in the line-up in his place. Peter Trainor remained scratched.

- Shots in the game were 44-19 for UNB.

- Once again Alex Dubeau was a rock between the pipes. Although he only had to make 19 shots in recording his 2nd shut-out of the playoffs, he was forced to make a couple of breakaways as well as a number of other high quality scoring chances.

- Dubeau was named playoff MVP after going a perfect 5-0 with a 1.37 GAA and 0.940 save percentage in the postseason.

- Much of the V-Reds success in this series can be traced to their special teams play. The dangerous St. FX power play went 0 for 6 tonight and 0 for 13 in the series. Meanwhile, UNB victimized the X-Men's top ranked penalty kill 3 times in 6 opportunities in the two games. They were 1 for 3 tonight.

- St. FX won 30 out of 59 face-offs.

- Attendance was a sell-out of 1735.

- Clapperton and Craig Duininck were named the player of the game for their respective teams.

- The X-Men were playing without their leading and 3rd leading scorer in Holden Cook and Matt Needham. They also played much of the game without all-rookie team defenceman Santino Centorame who never returned after leaving early.

- Alexandre Goulet left the game in the 2nd period after getting tied up in front of the net. He missed some time but did eventually return.

- UNB out-scored their opposition 11-2 in the two road playoff games they played this year.

- The V-Reds went undefeated in the playoffs for only the fourth time. They went 6-0 in 1997 (2-0 vs UdeM, 2-0 vs. STU, 2-0 vs. ACA), 5-0 in 2008 (3-0 vs. STU, 2-0 vs. SMU), and 6-0 in 2012 (3-0 vs. UPEI, 3-0 vs. UdeM).

- It has been a rough couple of days for St. FX athletics. On Sunday they fell in the AUS men's basketball championship game against UNB and on Tuesday night the women's hockey team lost 1-0 on home ice to Saint Mary's in the 3rd and deciding game of the final

- In the consolation series, the Saint Mary's Huskies forced a 3rd and deciding game Friday night in Wolfville with a 3-2 home win over the Acadia Axemen.

- The Varsity Reds and X-Men will now prepare for next week's University Cup. UNB will almost certainly enter the tournament as the top seed and will play Thursday night against most likely the winner of Friday night's OUA bronze medal game between the York Lions and Concordia Stingers.

- Stay tuned for more UCup info in the coming days.