Friday, February 22, 2019

Simpson Lifts Reds To 2-0 Lead

Mark Simpson's tipped in a Randy Gazzola point shot 6:17 into overtime, sending the Aitken Centre into a frenzy and giving the University of New Brunswick Reds a hard-fought 2-1 win over the visiting UPEI Panthers. UNB now take a commanding 2-0 series lead in the best 3-of-5 semi-final as the series shifts to Charlottetown.

The Panthers got off to quick start in this one as Kameron Kielly banged the fourth shot in quick succession past Alex Dubeau on a goal-mouth scramble just 51 seconds into the contest. It was the second goal of the series for the Panthers leading scorer. This was answered just over five minutes later when a good fore-checking shift led to Mark Rassell (Boudens, Goulet) lifting the puck under the crossbar from the lip of the crease to tie the game. This would prove to be the last goal of regulation, despite each team being awarded a number of power plays and UNB out-shooting UPEI 42-19 over the 60 minutes. 

The Reds were given a golden opportunity to end the game when Austin Levi took a slashing penalty at 19:16 of the 3rd period, but their power play was out of sorts for most of the night and they failed to capitalize even as the man advantage extended into the extra session. However, UNB made sure the missed chances didn't come back to bite them as Gazzola put what looked like a harmless looking wrist shot from the blue line towards the net. Simpson, standing in front of the net, deflected the puck just enough to get it to squeeze through Matthew Mancina's pads, giving the Reds the overtime victory. Kris Bennett picked up the secondary assist on the game-winning goal.

- UNB went with the same line-up as last night with Patrick Watling, James McEwan, and Noah Carroll sitting out.

- Shots were 47-22 for the Reds with period totals of 16-7, 13-8, 13-4, and 5-3.

- Both teams went 0 for 5 on the power play.

- UNB won 49 out of 90 face-offs. Samuel Dove-McFalls (17 out of 29) and Simpson (14 out of 23) did the majority of the damage. 

- Alex Dubeau made 21 saves to improve to 7-0 in his AUS playoff career.

- Gazzola, who was originally given credit for the winning goal, was named UNB's player of the game. For a second consecutive night Mancina took the honour for the Panthers. 

- In our series preview we said the Panthers goaltending would have to be lights out for them to have a chance. Matthew Mancina has been pretty close and has certainly deserved a better fate than an 0-2 record, stopping 98 out of the 102 shots UNB has fired at him through two games. Dating back to the Moncton series, he has turned aside 127 out of 131 shots in his last three games.

- Attendance was 2565.

- UNB have won the first two games despite the top line of Chris Clapperton, Tyler Boland, and Cameron Brace being held off the score-sheet. This is the first time all year Clapperton has been held scoreless in two straight games while Boland had been shutout in back to back games only once previously (October 19th and 20th).

- Tonight’s win ensures there will be at least one more hockey game at the Aitken Centre this season - either game 5 of this series or game 1 of the AUS Final.

- This is only the Reds second playoff overtime game in the last five years. Simpson also scored the winner in the last one, a 3-2 win over Saint Mary's in game 1 of the semi-finals last year. 

- There was no other games in the conference tonight. Saint Mary's and St. FX resume their series tomorrow night in Halifax with the Huskies looking to go up 2-0.

- This series now shifts to Charlottetown for game 3 on Monday and, if necessary, game 4 on Tuesday. Game time is 7PM. As usual, if you can't make it to the island you can watch the games at www.AUStv.ca.