Friday, November 9, 2018

Reds Blast X-Men

While nothing will ever wipe away the bitter taste from their 5-4 overtime loss to the rival St. FX X-Men in last season's University Cup semi-final, the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds made a big statement in the first chapter of the 2018-2019 rivalry, eviscerating the X-Men 8-1 tonight at the AUC. UNB remain unbeaten in regulation on the year, improving to 9-0-2 while St. FX (7-3-2) has their six game winning streak come to an end with a thud.

After a choppy opening few minutes that featured a number of icings and face-offs, the game settled into a fast-paced, back and forth affair which, at one point, saw the two teams play over seven minutes of uninterrupted hockey. The Reds got the only goal in what was a pretty evenly played period when Tyler Boland, who rang one squarely off the post earlier in the frame, finished a nice tic-tac-toe passing play with Christopher Clapperton and Stephen Anderson. Boland received a pass from the bottom of the face-off circle across the slot and easily deposited the puck into a wide open net at 17:22. Shots in the period narrowly favoured UNB 11-9.

Much like last Saturday night, the Reds came out for the 2nd period and blew the doors off the rink, playing one of the best periods of hockey you will ever see. They out-shot the X-Men 24-5 and pumped four goals past reigning U Sports goaltender of the year and AUS MVP Chase Marchand - and could have had more as their offensive pressure was relentless. At 6:08 Clapperton (LeBlanc, Brace) corralled a bouncing puck while also getting around a defender at the hash marks before beating Marchand on the backhand to make it 2-0. UNB took complete control of the game in the latter half of the period with three goals in 83 seconds. Matthew Boucher (Bennett, Murphy) pushed the lead to 3-0 at 13:50 when he took a pass across the neutral zone and went in for a breakaway goal. They then struck for two goals in 11 seconds with Mark Simpson (Bennett, Gazzola), after taking a nifty spin-o-rama pass from Kris Bennett at 15:02, and Boland (Anderson, Clapperton), with his second of the night on a rebound at 15:13, finding the back of the net. The latter goal ended the evening for Marchand as he was replaced in the X-Men goal by Blade Mann-Dixon.

The Reds let up a bit in the 3rd period with the game under control - they only out-shot the X-Men 20-5 and out-scored them 3-1. Kris Bennett (Goulet, Brace) joined the scoring party at 4:35 when he cut through the slot and slid a backhanded shot just inside the post to make it a 6-0 game. Almost exactly seven minutes later Boucher (Clapperton, Brace) one-timed the puck past Mann-Dixon just 15 seconds into a 5-on-3 man advantage. In what has become a common occurrence in recent seasons, once St. FX starts to have a game get away from them they tend to start gooning things up and try to goad the opposition into doing something unwise and tonight was certainly no exception. At 13:53 defenceman Aaron Hoyles (league-leading 120 PIM last season) went at it with Matt Boudens, handing the Reds a power play that turned into a two man advantage one second after the ensuing face-off when Sam Studnicka took a slashing penalty. While UNB didn't convert on the power play - and Matt Needham broke Alex Dubeau's shut-out bid shortly afterwards at 16:18 - the Reds did make the X-Men pay after the next scuffle they started at 18:00. With Regan Spears taking an undisciplined double-minor for continually harassing Alexandre Goulet and Anthony Difruscia mugging Mark Rassell, UNB went back on the power play and Oliver Cooper (LeBlanc, Gazzola) put the finishing touches on the laugher by tipping in a point shot at 18:16. That would make it 8-1 and that is how the game would end.

- UNB went with the same line-up as the last few games as Noah Carroll, Patrick Watling, and James McEwan all sat out.

- The final shots were 55-19. They were 9-9 at one point late in the 1st period.

- The Reds went 2 for 7 on the power play with the X-Men being held scoreless on five opportunities.

- St. FX was assessed 40 out of the 56 penalty minutes in the contest. UNB has been by-far the least penalized team in the conference thus far, accumulating 156 penalty minutes compared to 194 for the next lowest team. This is in stark contrast to recent history as they have ranked in the upper half of the league in penalty minutes in each of the last six seasons.

- Face-offs were 41-27 for UNB with Samuel Dove-McFalls leading the way with 14 wins in 18 attempts.

- Alex Dubeau was steady all night in goal in improving to 4-0-2 on the season with a 1.92 GAA and 0.919 save percentage.

- Clapperton (1 goal, 3 assists) was named the player of the game. Boland and Boucher (2 goals apiece) were the other two stars.

- Attendance was 2830.

- The X-Men were clearly missing top defenceman Cole MacDonald as the Reds carved up the X-Men defence all night, generating a pile of odd-man chances.

- This is UNB's biggest win over St. FX since a 9-2 victory in Antigonish on November 27th, 1994. They have not defeated the X-Men by more than six goals on home ice since before the 1968-69 season (as far back as the records go).

- In other AUS action tonight the Saint Mary's Huskies kept pace with a 4-2 home win over the Acadia Axemen and the Dalhousie Tigers snapped their nine game losing streak with a 4-3 shootout win against the UPEI Panthers in Charlottetown.

- The Reds are back on home ice tomorrow night when they welcome the Dalhousie Tigers to the AUC for the annual Rod Pike Memorial Game. Game time is scheduled for 7PM.