Saturday, February 2, 2019

Reds Wear Down Panthers

The University of New Brunswick Reds scored six unanswered goals and out-shot the short-staffed UPEI Panthers 38-11 over the final forty minutes to secure a 7-2 victory tonight at the Aitken Centre. The win gives UNB a 23-2-3 record on the season while the visitors drop to 13-12-3 to remain in 4th place.

Mark Rassell (Murphy, Anderson) got the home side off and running just 98 seconds into the contest, getting a short break down the left side and beating Simon Hofley on his second effort. However, the Panthers would take advantage of some UNB penalties to take the lead before the end of the period. At 3:39 - just 15 seconds into a lengthy two man advantage - Cody Payne squeaked a shot through Alex Dubeau to knot the game and then at 19:17 - during the first half of a four minute power play - Kameron Kielly tipped in a shot while driving to the net to stake the visitors to a 2-1 lead. Shots in the period were 11-10 for the Panthers.

Although UNB out-shot UPEI 20-5 in the middle period it was the Panthers who had a couple of quality chances early on to extend their lead, but some big saves and solid defensive plays kept the score 2-1. After the early chances it was pretty much all Reds for the rest of the game. James McEwan (Gazzola, LeBlanc) tied the game at 11:29 when he maintained control of the puck as he spun off of a check and fired a wrist shot through a crowd that found the back of the net. UNB then regained the lead in the final moments of the period. The Panthers tried to tie up a face-off in their own end to bleed the final seconds off the clock, but the puck was dug out by a UNB forward who put it back to LeBlanc. The defenceman quickly swung it over to his partner (Gazzola), who threw a shot towards the net that Rassell deflected in at 19:54 to make it 3-2.

The late goal seemed to ignite UNB as they out-shot the Panther 18-6 and scored four more goals in the final period to turn the game into a rout. As we have witnessed a number of times over the last two seasons, when the Reds score a goal there is a very good chance the floodgates will open and that is exactly what happened again tonight as they connected three times in a span of 4:04. They made it 4-2 at 8:09 thanks to a great effort by Chris Clapperton. The forward fanned on his attempted centering pass from the corner, but he lifted the stick of the defenceman to steal the puck back and didn't miss on his second chance, finding Stephen Anderson at the far post for a one-timer into the top of the net. Just under two minutes later Kris Bennett (Clapperton, Boland) tucked one in from in front while on the power play to push the lead to 5-2. Matthew Boucher (Boudens, Gatenby) completed the onslaught 2:12 later when he emerged from a crowd near the penalty box and got loose for a breakaway, going forehand to backhand to beat Hofley. Tempers began to flare in the latter half of the period with three separate instances resulting in three players on each side (LeBlanc, Carroll, and Boudens for UNB) being given a ten-minute misconduct and an early exit from the game. The departures left UNB with only four defenceman and the Panthers - who were already playing two men short - with only 13 skaters to finish out the game. Once things calmed down Bennett (Simpson, Murphy) capped the scoring with his second of the game at 17:32, taking a drop pass and putting the puck off the post and into the top right corner.

- UNB was still without forwards Alexandre Goulet and Samuel Dove-McFalls and defenceman Tristan Pomerleau.

- Shots were 48-22 for UNB. They also hit a couple of posts.

- The Reds broke through on the power play for the first time in three games, scoring once on seven tries. UPEI was 2 for 6.

- This is only the second time all year UNB has given up more than one power play goal in a game. They surrendered three against St. FX in a 4-2 loss on January 12th. Entering tonight's game they had killed off 24 out of the 25 shorthanded situations they faced since then.

- There were a combined 106 penalty minutes dished out in the game and they were handed out almost evenly - 54 to the Panthers and 52 to the Reds.

- UNB won 45 out 77 face-offs. Simpson (16 out of 27), Watling (10 out of 16), and Boudens (10 out of 13) all had strong nights in the dot.

- The three freshmen forwards - Rassell, Boucher, and McEwan - were named the game's three stars.

- Boucher had a game-high 11 shots on goal.

- This was Stephen Anderson's 100th career regular season game.

- With a pair of points tonight Chris Clapperton moved ahead of Saint Mary's forward Hunter Garlent for the conference scoring lead. Clapperton now has 41 points to Garlent's 40 heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Incredibly, the 4th year forward has been held scoreless only five times in 28 games so far this year.

- Attendance was a solid 2488 on a snowy night in the provincial capital.

- It was "Protectors Night" at the AUC with 1st responders being honoured before the game.

- UNB swept the season series versus the UPEI for the 4th time in 7 seasons. They- outscored the Panthers 33-13 in the five games.

- Just a reminder that this upcoming Monday is the last chance to bid on or buy game used 'Winter Camo'  jerseys.

- There were two other games in the conference tonight. The Dalhousie Tigers shocked Saint Mary's 4-1 and, in a game that people will be talking about for awhile, the Acadia Axemen beat the St. FX X-Men 6-3 in Wolfville in a game that featured a staggering 320 penalty minutes, most of which stemmed from a line/bench brawl at 9:05 of the 3rd period that left the X-Men with only nine skaters to finish the game. I’ve certainly never saw anything like it in my 16 years of watching AUS hockey. If you want to see the fun for yourself, go to the archived game at AUStv.ca and begin watching around the 2 hour and 11 minute mark. By virtue of the X-Men loss, Saint Mary's has clinched 2nd place and a first round bye.

- It's hard to believe but the regular season concludes next weekend with a pair of games at the AUC. On Friday night the St. FX X-Men, who will most likely be missing a number of players due to their actions tonight, are in town for 'Military Appreciation Night' and then the Dalhousie Tigers visit the following night for the season finale. Both games are set for a 7PM puck drop.