Well, this was a big weekend on the AUS schedule, with #1 UNB on the road to face #2 Acadia and #3 Saint Mary's.
Friday it was SMU's turn, and a season high 2335 fans showed up at the Halifax Forum. The buzz around Mike Danton probably helped the attendance, but he doesn't look to be getting into the Huskies lineup for a couple of weeks yet. The first period was pretty even and tightly played with no scoring. In the second period UNB's power play started clicking and notched two goals before the ten minute mark. The second power play came after SMU's David MacDonald hit Hunter Tremblay high and hard along the boards. MacDonald picked up two and ten for the blow to the head, and Tremblay left the game. However, SMU goalie Brandon Verge seem to come unravelled a few minutes later when Dion Campbell beat him on the short side, and then 40 seconds he was too deep in his net and Daine Todd was able to beat him from a bad angle. Rookie Neil Conway took over in SMU nets and he gave up a goal late in the period. There was more rough stuff in the third period. SMU's 6'7” Justin Wallingford caught Luke Lynes in an awkward position and hammered him in front of the UNB bench. This created a scrum. Then 40 seconds later on the power play two UNB defenders collided in the offensive zone and a Huskie cleared the puck. UNB goalie Travis Fullerton elected to come out of the net to the high slot to try to win the race for the loose puck, and he got bowled over by SMU defenceman Andrew Hotham who skated through him. This caused another scrum, and when it settled down Hotham had a five minute major for charging and six other players had ten minute misconducts and were out of the game. When the silenced crowd left this one it was a 6-1 victory for UNB.
Saturday night's Acadia-UNB match was quite different. On the big Olympic ice surface in Wolfville it was mostly end-to-end hockey all night, and there was no nasty stuff. Once again UNB opened the scoring with two goals in the second period, but that was all they managed, and they held on for the 2-1 win. Whoever counts shots in the Acadia rink appeared to be generous with the Axemen and stingy with the V-Reds, as the official tally was 48-21 in favour of Acadia. The shots were not indicative of the play, as this game was pretty even with perhaps UNB having a slight edge in play, particularly on the penalty kill. Acadia did do a phenomenal job blocking shots while shorthanded and the 1978 fans (also a season high) were very appreciative, although they obviously would have liked to see a win. UNB's perfect win streak is now at 19 games, and they have clinched a playoff berth.
Going back to Friday night, in Fredericton St. Thomas defeated Dalhousie 6-1 in a game that was apparently much closer than the score (the shots were 34-33 for Dal). Tyler Dietrich had two goals and an assist in the win. The struggling Aigles Bleus got a big win at home in Moncton – StFX scored first but UdeM scored the next five goals and cruised to a 7-3 victory. Dean Ouellet had a big night for Moncton with 2 goals and 3 assists. UdeM outshot StFX 47-34. The other game Friday was in Wolfville, where Acadia defeated UPEI 2-1. This one was described as a game of “pond hockey”, and while Acadia coach Darren Burns wasn't paricularly happy with their play, they did get the win.
On Saturday, UPEI rebounded by upsetting SMU 4-3, with Panthers rookie Jared Gomes scoring two power play goals in the second period. Dal beat Moncton 3-1 in a must-win game, with Tigers goaltender Josh Disher stealing the win with 40 saves and Christmas recruit Benjamin Breault scoring the first two goals for Dal. StFX was up 3-0 going into the third period and held on for a 4-1 win over St. Thomas
On Tuesday UNB will be travelling to Orono to play the Maine Black Bears and make up the game snowed out on January 2. Wednesday STU is at Moncton and StFX is at Dal. Friday sees Acadia at Dal, SMU at StFX, UPEI at STU and UNB at UdeM. On Saturday StFX is at Acadia, Dal is at SMU, UNB is at STU and UPEI is at UdeM.