This was a big week in the AUS, with the three top teams all playing each other. On Wednesday it was Acadia at Saint Mary's in the battle for second place, and has already been covered, it was the debut of Mike Danton in the SMU lineup. Danton scored, but the Axemen scored three times before he did and added an empty netter for the 4-1 win in front of 3723 fans. Friday night the Huskies were in Fredericton to play UNB, and the Mike Danton circus probably helped push attendance to a sellout 3742. After Brandon Verge withstood a dominant V-Reds first period, the men in red 'n black got to him twice in the second period and put the icing on the cake when Hunter Tremblay picked Verge's pocket behind the net and scored shorthanded. SMU sniper Cody Thorton scored his conference-leading 22nd goal in the period to foil Travis Fullerton's shutout bid. UNB won 4-1 while limiting the Huskies to 18 shots on goal.
Friday night the Axeman were on the Island to play the Panthers, and as Acadia coach Darren Burns said later, “I don't think we ever got off the bus” as UPEI scored five goals before the midpoint of the game. Acadia mounted a furious charge in the third period but still lost the game 5-3. With the Axemen loss and UNB win Friday, the V-Reds clinch first place in the AUS, and will have a first round playoff bye, and home ice throughout the playoffs. The other games Friday, St. Thomas at Dalhousie and Moncton at StFX, were bumped to Sunday thanks to the snowstorm in the region.
On Saturday it was Acadia's turn to try to break UNB's winning streak. It was another sellout crowd at the AUC, this time 3812 with a large percentage of elementary school kids for their annual night. The Axemen came out flying, and the V-Reds were a bit flat, and the first period ended with Acadia up 2-1. UNB found their missing gear in the second period and scored two goals and added another early in the third period. Acadia had a great opportunity for a comeback when UNB's Matt Fillier was handed a five minute major. However the V-Reds killed over half of the penalty before all heck broke out in front of the UNB net and defenceman Jonathan Harty and Acadia's David Lomas got into it and picked up fighting majors. Just what all those kids needed to see. Hunter Tremblay added an empty netter late for his second goal and UNB won 5-2. So a bit of a statement weekend for the V-Reds, who by the way now have all ten of the Top Ten plus/minus leaders in the AUS [Well, one Panther, Thomas Stryncl, is tied for 10th place with two V-Reds].
Saturday night the Huskies played the upstart Panthers, and they lost by the same 5-3 score as Acadia. This one was tied 2-2 after the first period, but UPEI broke it open in the second period. SMU did outshoot UPEI 34-23, so Wayne Savage had another good night in nets for the Panthers. In Antigonish St. Thomas tied the game against StFX early in the second period, and took the lead midway through the game only to see X tile it up 42 seconds later. X-Man Nick Pageau scored the game winner early in the third period, and they added an empty netter for the 4-2 win. Late in the second period STU's Tyler Dietrich apparently had an incident with an official and was given a gross misconduct, and will probably be suspended a game or two. In the other game Saturday, in a must-win, Kevin Lachance made 34 saves as Moncton shutout Dalhousie 3-0.
On Sunday Moncton hooked up with StFX, and UdeM twice blew a lead and the game went into overtime and then a shootout tied 2-2. Mathieu Bétournay and captain Pierre-André Bureau both scored in the shootout while the X-Men came up blank, so UdeM went home with a 3-2 win and finally got themselves out of the AUS basement. STU's game on Sunday didn't start well, as Dalhousie's Christmas import sensation Ben Brault scored just 22 seconds in. STU twice battled back and tied the game, only to see Francois Gauthier score shorthanded early in the third period and the Tigers protect the lead the rest of the way for the big 3-2 win. Dalhousie stays in the last playoff spot while STU drops to last place and three points back.
Looking ahead there are three games on Wednesday. UdeM is at UNB, STU is at UPEI and Dal is at Acadia. On Friday Acadia is at STU, SMU is at UdeM, UPEI is at Dal and UNB is at StFX. On Saturday Acadia is at UdeM, SMU is at STU, UPEI is at StFX and UNB is at Dal. It's going to be a busy week ...