Well the second half started for the AUS this weekend, and almost ho-hum, the UNB Varsity Reds knocked off two more wins, running their team-record perfect start to 17 games, at the same time setting and extending a new team record for most wins in a season. Last week in their own holiday Peterbilt NB Pete Kelly Cup tournament the V-Reds defeated a hardworking Toronto Varsity Blues squad 5-1 and then Moncton 4-1 in the championship game. The final was a testy affair that saw UNB's, and the CIS's, leading scorer Hunter Tremblay pick up his first fighting major as a V-Red, after he had enough of being rabbit-punched by UdeM's Remi Gautreau in the scrum that followed UNB's fourth goal in the third period.
UNB was supposed to travel to Orono to play the NCAA's Maine Black Bears on January 2, but the game was postponed due to the big snowstorm in the region and it will now be played Tuesday, Jan. 19. Exhibition games between Dal and Acadia and UPEI and STU for January 2 were also wiped out due to the storm. On Friday night St. Thomas goaltender Charles Lavigne kept the game against the V-Reds from being a blowout (the shots were 42-16 in favour of UNB) and then his teammates made it interesting when he was on the bench for the extra attacker and Mike Reich scored with 63 seconds to go to draw within a goal. That was as close as STU got in the 4-3 loss. There was a season high 3517 fans at the AUC to see the cross-campus rivals go at it for the third time this season, and WJC Team Canada goalie Jake Allen got to drop the puck at the ceremonial face off, and received a standing ovation from his hometown fans.
Saturday night UNB was off to Charlottetown to face UPEI. The Panthers have been terrible at the AUC this season, but play UNB tough at home. The V-Reds had a “comfortable” three-goal lead with less than five minutes to go, but then they took two penalties and UPEI scored while 5-on-3 and then while 5-on-4 (the UNB player out of the penalty box wasn't back in the defensive zone yet) to draw within a goal at 17:39. UNB bounced back and notched an empty netter to make the final score 5-3 and keep their winning streak alive. Worrying for UNB fans, and heartening for their opponents, is that the V-Reds power play continues to struggle, going 2-for-16 on the weekend.
St. Thomas was home Saturday night, and they notched an important win over Moncton as Kenton Dulle scored with three seconds left in regulation time for the 2-1 victory. Mike Reich scored the other STU goal, and interestingly the two rookies were boyhood hockey teammates in the small town of Craik, Saskatchewan. As for Lavigne, he had another stellar night in nets, as UdeM outshot STU 29-18. Moncton and St. Thomas had met the week before at the Pete Kelly Cup, with UdeM coming out ahead 4-3. STU went on to defeat Toronto 3-2 the next day in the consolation final, scoring all of their goals in the second period.
Moncton was on the Island Friday night, and they lost 3-2 when UPEI's Cory Vitarelli scored at 1:53 of overtime. For les Aigles Bleus, they continue to lose one-goal games and they are now uncharacteristically five points out of a playoff spot.
Turning to Nova Scotia, Friday night saw the big game between second place Acadia and third place Saint Mary's in Wolfville. This one went to overtime, and Jonathan Laberge completed his hat-trick at 7:59 of extra time to give Acadia the 5-4 win and extend their winning streak to ten games. Thanks to UNB's longer streak, the Axemen wins are hardly getting noted in the AUS. Special teams were important, as SMU went 0-for-4 on the PP while Acadia went 3-5 with the man advantage. The Huskies had a healthy shot margin over the Axemen: 32-23. SMU was back in Halifax Saturday night, visiting city rival Dalhousie. They showed now mercy, and were up 6-0 after two periods and cruised to a 8-3 win. Last week in an exhibition game the Huskies hammered the same Tigers 11-2.
For their part, Acadia was off to Antigonish to face StFX on Saturday. The Axemen came out flying, outshooting the X-Men 20-2 in the first 20 minutes and they carried a 2-0 lead into the third period. However X's Phil Mangan scored twice in the third period, and completed his natural hat trick at 1:05 of overtime for the upset 3-2 win. The X-Men were outshot 37-21 in the game, so rookie goalie Bryan Gillis had a big night as well in snapping the Acadia win streak. Speaking of upsets, the Dal Tigers scored four unanswered goals in the third period as they beat the X-Men 5-2 on Friday night. Dal got great goaltending from rookie Bobby Nadeau, as they were outshot 43-30 in the game. StFX had their own holiday tournament the week before, the Keating Cup, where they defeated the OUA's Carleton Ravens 5-2 and 3-2. The first game was called after only two periods when a power outage hit their rink.
Next weekend the UNB puts their winning streak on the line in road games against SMU and Acadia. UNB's “travelling partner” UPEI is at Acadia on Friday and SMU on Saturday. STU will be hosting Dal and StFX, while Moncton gets the same teams in reverse order.