This coming weekend will mark the annual AUS hockey pilgrimage to New England to play NCAA Division I schools. It is a win-win situation: the NCAA teams get to open their seasons with an exhibition game that will have no impact on their all-important national polls and rankings, and the AUS teams get the challenge of playing against very good teams who are reasonably close (it is a shorter drive from anywhere in the Maritimes to Boston than Montréal, and a shorter bus trip to New York than Toronto). Whereas in the past the scores were redundant (the AUS teams just about always got smoked), more recently the top AUS (and CIS) schools are proving that they can often hold their own with the best in the NCAA – and how many sports can you say that about?
StFX: The X-Men have arguably the toughest weekend. They play current NCAA champion Boston University on Saturday night, and then late Sunday afternoon they play previous champion Boston College, both out of Hockey East. Prediction: The X-Men may beat BC, but not BU.
UNB: The Varsity Reds start their weekend early, as Wednesday night they play the AHL’s Portland Pirates in Maine. This will be the Buffalo Sabres’ top farm team’s last exhibition game before they begin their regular season next week, so UNB is really in tough. The V-Reds continue down I-95 to play the UMASS Minutemen on Saturday, and then Sunday afternoon they are at Vermont. Prediction: I can’t see UNB beating the Pirates, but they could win both of their games against Hockey East opponents.
Acadia: Saturday night the Axemen will face a huge crowd at the Whittemore Center when they play New Hampshire. At least they’re used to playing on an Olympic sized ice surface. Sunday afternoon they play the UMass-Lowell River Hawks. Prediction: I don’t see Acadia beating these two strong Hockey East schools, but UNH does have a recent history of losing against AUS schools.
UPEI: The Panthers are in Troy, NY on Saturday night to play the Rensselaer Engineers and then onto Connecticut on Sunday afternoon to play Quinnipiac. Both schools are in the ECAC conference. Prediction: You know, if UPEI stays disciplined and focused they could win both of these games.
STU: The Saint Thomas Tommies have the unenviable task of facing the Hockey East heavyweights Northeastern Huskies on Saturday night. On Sunday afternoon they play Sacred Heart, out of the weaker Atlantic Hockey conference. Prediction: I give STU no chance against NU, but could see them beating the Pioneers.
Saint Mary’s, Moncton and Dalhousie will not be making American road trips this fall. SMU and Dal will engage in the first installment of the Battle of Halifax on Wednesday night and then again on Sunday. UdeM will be playing SMU on Saturday night.
V-Reds step it up a notch (Daily Gleaner)