Sunday, March 17, 2019

Reds Trounce X-Men, Advance To Final

Kris Bennett ensured there would be no overtime heroics from the X-Men this season. The second year forward lit the lamp four times as the #2 seeded University of New Brunswick Reds overwhelmed the #6 seeded St. FX X-Men in a dominant 9-1 victory tonight in the University Cup semi-finals. UNB are back in the gold medal game after a one year hiatus and will now play the Alberta Golden Bears for the National Championship tomorrow evening. St. FX will look to regroup in time for a bronze medal match versus the Saskatchewan Huskies tomorrow afternoon.

It was a dream start for the Reds as they scored three goals in the opening seven minutes to put the X-Men immediately on their heals. Just like in game 2 of the AUS Final, it was Cameron Brace getting the scoring started early and setting the tone. Kris Bennett provided some nice work in the X-Men corner, protecting the puck and eventually spinning away from a defender just as Brace got loose in front of the net. Bennett feathered a pass out to Brace, who beat Chase Marchand with a shot just inside the far post at 1:36. Tristan Pomerleau also picked up an assist on the opening goal. Bennett then took a penalty, giving the X-Men power play a chance to get the equalizer. However, it was UNB taking advantage. Alexandre Goulet won a race to a loose puck just inside the St. FX blue-line, fended off a defenceman, and snapped the puck low glove side past Marchand to make it 2-0 with an unassisted marker at 6:07. It only took 51 seconds for the Reds to strike again thanks to a great individual effort from Bennett, who was just out of the penalty box. The second year forward got the puck in the X-Men zone and showed great puck protection as he maintained possession through a number of attempted checks before toe-dragging around a defenseman in the low slot and scoring. The unassisted goal made it 3-0 for UNB. They would not be done though. At 12:59 Samuel Dove-McFalls (Boucher, McIvor) got on the score-sheet with a goal off a nice rush only moments after a Reds power play expired. Dove-McFalls took a pass from Marcus McIvor deep in his own zone, chipped the puck to himself around an X-Men player at the Reds blue-line, skated into the offensive zone and put a wrist shot from the high slot through a screen to give UNB a commanding 4-0 lead, which they would take into the intermission. Shots in the period were 24-8 for the Reds, which were very indicative of the play.

The X-Men looked much better in the early parts of the second period and they were able to get on the board thanks to a fortunate bounce at 5:47. Adam Laishram took a shot from far out that hit a UNB stick and took a wicked ricochet downwards off the ice and into the top corner, past Alex Dubeau. St. FX had a chance to really make it interesting a few minutes later as UNB took a pair of penalties 31 seconds apart, but they only managed one shot on goal during the lengthy two man advantage despite having plenty of zone time. Shortly after successfully killing off the penalties UNB made sure there would be no miraculous comeback on this night as they struck for two goals in 67 seconds to put the game out of reach. At 10:37 Bennett (LeBlanc, Gatenby) notched his second of the night after coming hard down the right side and lifting a backhanded shot into the top right corner. Then, at 11:44, Chris Clapperton (Boland, Gazzola) took a pass off the side boards and got in behind a defenceman before slapping the puck between Marchand's legs. UNB would hold a 6-1 lead after two periods. They out-shot the X-Men 14-8 in the period.   

The Reds would add another three goals to their total in the 3rd period to turn this one into a laugher. At 4:14 Marchand stopped two shots in quick succession, but Bennett (Dove-McFalls, LeBlanc) was able to pounce on a rebound and get the third one past him for his hat-trick goal. Joe Gatenby (Boucher, Goulet) would make it 8-1 on a shot from the blue-line at 12:39 and then Bennett would add his fourth of the game at 14:12, keeping the puck on a two-on-one and putting a well-placed shot off the post and in. That would finally wrap up the scoring - much to St. FX's delight I suspect - as UNB out-shot the X-Men 16-4 over the final twenty minutes.

- UNB went with the same line-up as yesterday. Noah Carroll, James McEwan, and Patrick Watling were all scratched.

- Shots in the game were 54-20 for the Reds.

- Neither team scored a power play goal even though there were 15 opportunities in the game - nine for St. FX and six for UNB. As the game got increasingly out of hand on the scoreboard the refs became a lot less lenient, no doubt as a way to keep control of the game and avoid a situation like we saw at the end of the Alberta/Saskatchewan game.

- Bennett (4 goals, 1 assist) and Laishram (1 goal) were named the player's of the game.

- Alex Dubeau stopped 19 out of 20 shots, although he wasn't forced to make as many tough saves like he was against Carleton.

- Attendance was 1021.

- UNB set school records for the most goals (9) and largest margin of victory (8) in a University Cup game.

- UNB improves to 2-2 all-time against the X-Men in University Cup play.

- The Reds have outscored the X-Men 29-5 in winning the last four head-to-head meetings between the two this season.

- Bennett is the first Reds player to have five points in a UCup game. His four goals match Cam Braes (twice) and Philippe Halley for the most by a UNB player.

- With the victory, it guarantees 5th year players Randy Gazzola, Matt Boudens, and Cameron Brace will finish their UNB careers with five University Cup medals. They will be looking to add a 3rd gold medal (2016, 2017) to a collection that also includes a silver (2015) and bronze (2018).

- This is the second time in three years St. FX has been blown out in a national semi-final game. They lost 8-0 to Saskatchewan in 2017.

- UNB will now focus their attention on the Alberta Golden Bears in what will be the first meeting between the two powerhouses since the 2015 title game. Game time is 9PM and it will be broadcast live on Sportsnet 360.