Monday, February 25, 2019

Reds Sweep Aside Panthers, Clinch UCup Berth

With a chance to sweep their best 3-of-5 semi-final series, the University of New Brunswick Reds went into Charlottetown this evening and silenced the hometown UPEI Panthers, skating to a 5-0 victory that not only advances them to the AUS Final, but guarantees them a spot at next months University Cup in Letthbridge.

The Reds dominated the opening half of the 1st period, firing the first ten shots of the game at Panthers goalie Matthew Mancina. However, like he has been all series, Mancina was up to the task. UNB finally broke through at 9:41 when Randy Gazzola's point shot deflected off Oliver Cooper and right to Alexandre Goulet at the side of the net. Goulet faked a shot and then out-waited Mancina to get him to down before sliding to the left and putting the puck in an empty net. This would prove to be the only goal in the period as UNB out-shot a Panthers squad 13-4.

To begin the 2nd period the Panthers replaced Mancina with Simon Hofley in a move that we can only assume was due to an injury. UPEI had a great chance to tie the game early in the frame when they had a two man advantage for 1:27, but Alex Dubeau - who was outstanding in his own right throughout the series - and the penalty killers held the fort to maintain the 1-0 lead. At the other end of the ice, Hofley was sharp in the first 16 career postseason minutes. However, an unfortunate bounce and then some terrible luck in a span of two and a half minutes late in the period essentially put the game out of reach. At 16:37 Kris Bennett (Boucher, LeBlanc) was in the right place at the right time when the puck hit a stanchion behind the Panthers net and bounced to him at the side of the net. He quickly deposited it past a surprised Hofley to make it 2-0. Just over two minutes later Samuel Dove-McFalls was hauled down just as he got the puck to Mark Rassell for a breakaway. With a penalty coming to the Panthers, Rassell was hooked on the breakaway, leading to a penalty shot. The freshman forward made no mistake during the one-on-one showdown with the goaltender, going right to left to get Hofley to open his pads before sliding the puck five-hole to make it 3-0 at 18:39. The Reds then went on the power play stemming from the original penalty and they quickly converted on that as well after a beautiful passing play that saw Bennett (Boland, Simpson) have an easy tap-in from the top of the crease for his second goal in a matter of minutes. The power play marker, which came only 29 seconds after Rassell's, was UNB's first of the series and pushed the lead to 4-0. Shots in the period were 15-7 for the Reds.

With the game well in hand, the 3rd period featured a couple of scrums as well as the final goal of the contest. Midway through the period the Panthers were on their second lengthy 5-on-3 of the game when they took a pair of penalties in front of the Reds net. After a brief 3-on-3, UNB went on a 5-on-3 of their own and they made the Panthers pay with the nail in the coffin. Chris Clapperton fed Gazzola with a cross-ice pass and the defenceman quickly worked it down to Boland at the far side of the net. Boland skated across the top of the crease and flipped the puck past a desperate Hofley to give UNB a 5-0 lead, which is how this one would end. The two teams accounted for eight shots apiece in the period.

- Patrick Watling, James McEwan, and Noah Carroll were once again the three scratches.

- Shots in the game were 36-19 for UNB.

- The Reds went 2 for 9 on the power play. UPEI was 0 for 6.

- For all the praise Mancina is getting for his performance in net this series - and rightfully so - Alex Dubeau posted some ridiculous numbers of his own. In the three games the Reds goaltender surrendered only two goals on 66 shots over 186 minutes of play. That equates to a respectable 0.970 save percentage and 0.64 goals against average. This is Dubeau's 3rd playoff shutout in eight career starts.

- UNB had their best game of the series in terms of face-offs, winning 51 out of 83 draws. Samuel Dove McFalls (13/23), Mark Simpson (12/19), and Tyler Boland (12/16) were the biggest contributors.

- Bennett was named the player of the game.

- Attendance was 807.

- After another goal tonight, Mark Rassell is quickly turning himself into a Panthers-killer. He scored in every game of the series and has lit the lamp in six straight games against UPEI. He has torched the Panthers for nine goals and two assists in those games. 

- UNB have won their last three playoff road games by a combined score of 16-2. In their only two playoff games away from the AUC last season they beat Saint Mary's 6-2 and St. FX 5-0.

- In the other semi-final series, a depleted St. FX line-up gutted out a 3-1 home win over Saint Mary's to keep their season alive. The Huskies lead in the series is cut to 2 games to 1 with game 4 scheduled for Wednesday night in Antigonish.

- As mentioned, tonight's win means the Reds have earned a place at the University Cup. They are the 4th team to clinch their spot following the host Lethbridge Pronghorns and the two Canada West finalists - the Alberta Golden Bears and the Saskatchewan Huskies - who swept Calgary and Mount Royal respectively this past weekend. In Ontario, the OUA West Final features the Guelph Gryphons and Western Mustangs and the East Final will pit the Carleton Ravens versus the Queen's Gaels. The two winners will clinch their berth while the losers will play a consolation game for the conference's 3rd spot in Lethbridge. Of course, the winner of SMU/St. FX also gets a ticket.

- The Reds will now have some time to rest while they wait to see who they play in the final. We will have more once that series concludes and the schedule for the best 2-of-3 final is released.