Monday, March 4, 2019

Reds Lockdown X-Men

The University of New Brunswick Reds put on a puck possession clinic tonight on their way to a decisive 5-1 victory over the visiting St. FX X-Men in the opening game of the best 2-of-3 AUS Final. UNB will look to close out the series on Wednesday night in Antigonish.

The opening period was the closest of the night with the Reds holding a 14-6 advantage in shots on goal and scoring the line goal. X-Men goaltender Chase Marchand was locked in from the beginning as he continued his recent hot stretch, but the Reds finally solved him at 18:03 when Kris Bennett (Pomerleau, Brace) deflected a high point shot while in traffic in front of the net. St. FX argued that the puck was knocked in via a high stick but it was to no avail.

The Reds started to really take over the game in the 2nd period, out-shooting the X-Men 22-2. Stephen Anderson was re-inserted back on the top line with Chris Clapperton and Tyler Boland and the move paid immediate dividends as they were a force all night. This was most evident when they worked a long cycle deep in the X-Men zone that resulted in Anderson stickhandling through a pair of defenders in the slot before finding Clapperton at the left face-off circle for a one-time blast into the top of the net. Joe Gatenby was credited with the secondary assist on the goal, which game at 7:38. Unfortunately, three mental mistakes in quick succession by the Reds a few minutes later briefly got St. FX in the game. First, UNB was called for a too many men on the ice penalty at 12:17 and then, on the ensuing face-off, Matt Murphy lifted the puck out of play for a delay of game penalty. The Reds almost killed off the extended two man advantage, but with 20 seconds remaining the puck came to Alex Dubeau behind the net and his attempt to clear the puck up the middle of the ice was easily picked off by Daniel Roberston, who quickly deposited it into a wide open net to cut the lead to 2-1. Murphy did not waste any time in making up for his gaffe. Shortly after coming out of the penalty box he took a pass from Bennett just inside the offensive zone, got a step on the defender coming down the left wing, and had his shot dribble through Marchand and into the far corner to restore the two goal lead. The goal, which was also assisted by Alexandre Goulet, came only 36 seconds after Robertson's. UNB would take the 3-1 lead into the final period.

The Reds added a pair of goals in the 3rd period, which were sandwiched around a potentially devastating injury. At 7:12 Mark Rassell (Brace, Gazzola) kept his hot-streak going, coming out of the corner with the puck and firing a low shot from the slot that beat Marchand. The freshman forward has now scored in all four games this postseason. The game wasn't all good news unfortunately. Around the mid-way point of the period Clapperton was involved in a collision at the X-Men blue-line that caused the MVP to leave the game with what appeared to be a leg injury. He would not return. Fortunately, by this point the Reds had the game well in hand and they capped the scoring with a buzzer-beating tap-in goal from Oliver Cooper (McEwan, Goulet) at 19:59. Shots in the period were 11-2 for UNB. 

- James McEwan replaced Matthew Boucher in the line-up. Patrick Watling and Noach Carroll remained out.

- Shots in the game were 47-10 for the Reds.

- St. FX went 1 for 4 on the power play. UNB was 1 for 5.

- The Reds absolutely rolled the X-Men in the face-off circle, winning 40 out of 55 draws. Samuel Dove-McFalls had an alright night at the dot, winning all 17 of his chances. Mark Simpson (10 out of 16) and Goulet (7 out of 11) also had strong nights.

- Bennett and Marchand were named the player of the game for their respective teams.

- Attendance was 2903.

- The Reds have now won nine straight AUS playoff games.

- In the last three AUS playoff match-ups between the two, UNB has out-scored St. FX 16-4.

- The X-Men have been out-shot in all but one of their nine play-off games this year. This was the first time Marchand hasn't posted at least a 0.900 save percentage in those games.

- The University Cup picture got a little clearer last night after a pair of game 3's. Out west the Alberta Golden Bears captured yet another Canada West title, defeating the Saskatchewan Huskies 1-0. They will enter the University Cup ranked either #1 or #2 while the Huskies will go in as the #5 or #6 seed. The OUA West Division final also needed a 3rd and deciding game and it was the Guelph Gryphons who came away with a thrilling 4-3 double overtime win over the Western Mustangs. The Gryphons have clinched a berth at the University Cup and will play the Queen's Gaels for the OUA Championship next Saturday. Meanwhile, the Mustangs will play the Carleton Ravens the same day for the conference's third berth .

- This series resumes Wednesday night in Antigonish with UNB looking to wrap up a second consecutive AUS Championship. The game is scheduled for 7PM and can be viewed at www.AUStv.ca.