This afternoon, the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds proved their dominance of CIS men's hockey this year (26-1-0-1 regular season, 4-0 playoffs, 2-0 thus far at nationals) hasn't been a fluke, as they beat the Saskatchewan Huskies 4-0 to earn a place in Sunday's championship final. Saskatchewan's a pretty strong team (Canada West silver medalists), but the Reds were all over them for most of the game.
Perhaps most impressive was the intensity UNB continued to bring on the forecheck even after they'd piled up a three-goal lead partway through the second: they trapped the Huskies in their own zone for extended amounts of time, created quality scoring chances and played like the game was still tied. As the CIS game recap points out, they recorded 14 of the last 16 shots in the second and outshot the Huskies 9-4 in the third, part of their 40-23 shot advantage overall. Shots don't always mean a lot, but a lot of these were good chances and, more importantly, came after the game was well in hand. Many teams would have taken their foot off the gas, relaxed, and casually played out the game: UNB never seemed to let up, which speaks well of their drive and desire to repeat as national champions.
UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall summed his team's consistent effort up pretty nicely in his post-game comments. "You always ask your players for a 60-minute effort," he said. "You rarely get to 60, but today we came pretty close." Indeed they did: that sort of killer instinct should serve them well in the final.
What's still to be decided is their opponent. If Moncton beats McGill tonight, they'll face the Reds in a rematch of last year's final. If they lose, it will be the Alberta Golden Bears with a chance to dethrone the champions. Due to their crushing loss to Alberta last night, McGill can only qualify if they win by eight, which seems unlikely against a good Moncton team that upset Alberta in their opener. McGill's currently up 1-0, so it would be the Golden Bears in the final if the score remains the same.
As a side note, Sportsnet should be commended for the strong job they've done on the telecasts so far. Peter Loubardias and Sam Cosentino are delivering a solid performance on the game call, while Rob Faulds has brought some interesting interviews to the mix. All of them seem to have done their homework on the CIS teams and players, which is good to see: their junior experience probably helps due to the large crossover in players.