Sunday, December 5, 2021

Reds Earn Weekend Split, Limp Into X-Mas Break

The Christmas break couldn't be coming at a better time for the number one ranked team in the country. The University of New Brunswick Reds earned a 3-1 home win over Moncton on Friday night before turning around and falling by the same score the next night Charlottetown against the UPEI Panthers. However, their line-up continues to be ravaged by injuries, making the upcoming three and a half week layoff a very welcome sight for the 16-2-0 Reds.

- On Friday night the Reds hosted the Universite de Moncton Aigles Bleus at the AUC for the 5th Annual Teddy Bear Toss game, which doubled as Elementary School Night. Thomas Casey (Nurse, McEwan) made sure the sold-out crowd of 3374 fans didn't have to hold on to their stuffed animals too long as he potted the opening goal 1:53 into the contest, prompting the throwing of 1577 stuffies to the ice, all of which will be donated to the less fortunate this holiday season. Nicolas Guay (Dove-McFalls, Keating) added UNB's second goal on a backhander at 8:58 and it seemed like the Reds were off to the races. That proved not to be the case, though. The Aigles Bleus played a strong game the rest of the way, cutting the lead on a Mika Cyr breakaway goal at 3:17 of the 2nd period. It wasn't until Mark Rassell (Dove-McFalls, Landry) swatted the puck in just as a UNB power play expired at 14:10 of the 3rd period that the victory felt secured.

- The Reds out-shot Moncton 30-21 on the night with period totals of 11-6, 11-6, and 8-9.

- UNB was 0 for 4 on the power play. Moncton was 0 for 2.

- Rylan Parenteau improved to 10-0-0 with the win in goal. 

- The Reds got the services of Noah Carroll back, but were missing Griffen Outhouse, Tyler Boland, James Phelan, and Brady Gilmour to injury. Gilmour underwent surgery to repair a fractured foot earlier in the week and is out long term. Benjamin Gagne served the final game of his suspension. 

- Unfortunately, Joe Gatenby left the game in the 1st period and never returned. Mark Rassell was shaken up as well in the 2nd period. He finished the game but missed Saturday's game along with Gatenby.

- Playing on the island is never easy. It is always a tough, physical battle and especially so if you have less than a full line-up. It was a valiant effort on Saturday night from a Reds squad that finished the game with only 12 skaters going against a rested UPEI team, but they ultimately fell 3-1 with the Panthers not being able to put the game away until a last minute empty netter.

- The Panthers opened the scoring 13:31 into the game when Drake Pilon picked the top left corner over Parenteau's blocker. The goal would stand until Carson McKinnon scored on a slap shot while coming down the left wing 46 seconds into the 3rd period. Nicolas Guay (Gagne, McEwan) gave the Reds some life, cutting the deficit in half at 11:14, but Flip Rydstrom ended the comeback hope with an empty net marker with 45 seconds remaining. 

- The Reds got Gagne back from his suspension but were missing Outhouse, Boland, Phelan, Gilmour, Gatenby, and Rassell. They also lost both Connor Hall early in the game and Austen Keating in the 2nd period, neither of whom returned. This meant UNB finished the game with only eight forwards and four defencemen.

- Even with the lack of available bodies, the Reds out-shot the Panthers 31-20 on the night.

- The difference in the game might have been UNB's inability to score on any of their eight power play opportunities, which wasn't necessarily surprising given six of the guys who were/got injured get significant minutes with the man advantage. 

- The loss was the first in 16 games against UPEI, dating back to a 3-2 loss in January 2018.

- It is the first time since January 12th, 2002 UNB has failed to score at least two goals in a game against the Panthers. They had done so in each of the last 99 matchups between the two. 

- While losing the last game before an extended break always leaves a sour taste, the fact of the matter is the Reds have won 16 out of their first 18 regular season games for the first time since going 18-0-0 in 2009-2010. 

- With a 16-2-0 record UNB is well positioned to capture a 14th consecutive regular season title. The current standings, with all teams having played 18 games, look like this:

UNB = 32 points

St. FX = 25

Dalhousie = 19

UPEI = 19

Saint Mary's = 16

Acadia = 12

Moncton = 11

- The biggest key over the break will to be to get as many players healthy as possible. Plus, they still have three open roster spots to work with for possible reinforcements should the right opportunity arise. 

- As most have probably heard my now, the 2021 FISU Winter Universiade, which were slated to be held from December 11th-21st in Lucerne, Switzerland, have been cancelled due to COVID concerns. This impacts a number of Reds as head coach Gardiner MacDougall, Tyler Boland, Austen Keating, Samuel Dove-McFalls, Joe Gatenby, and Rylan Parenteau were all picked to represent Canada. Additionally, women's head coach Sarah Hilworth and goaltender Kendra Woodland had been named to the women's squad.

- UNB is now off until Thursday, December 30th when they host the McGill Redbirds in the 2021 Pete Kelly Cup. Game time is 7PM.