Well the AUS men's hockey regular season finally started on the weekend, and when all the ice chips settled Saturday night the only certainty was that predicting winners is going to be a challenge again, and UNB is mortal.
So the buzz after UNB's 4-2 loss to UPEI on Friday was that the Panthers got a big monkey off their back and V-Reds won't have that worry about that win streak again this year. UPEI was humbled 10-0 when they opened the season last year in Fredericton, so they were hoping for better success for their home opener this time. For their part, despite being 8-0 in the preseason, UNB didn't look particulary sharp early in the game. New Panthers netimnder Mark Guggenberger, with 32 saves, was certainly a big factor in the win, but what really stood out was UPEI's penalty killing, especially in two 5-0n-3 situations, as they held UNB's powerplay to a 1-for-9 success rate on the night.
StFX got by Acadia 5-4 in their home opener Friday, thanks to the hat trick and game winning goal from captain Chris Hulit. In the Battle of Halifax, Saint Mary's spoiled Dalhousie's home opener, which included a long opening ceremony as they retired two numbers, as SMU cruised to a 5-0 win and UdeM were a bit of a surprise with their rebuilt offense as the embarrassed the visiting STU Tommies 10-1.
The Tommies rebounded nicely back in their rink Saturday night in the first Battle of the Hill of the season, as after two periods they matched UNB 24-24 in shots and were only down 3-1. The wheels came off in the third period, as it was all V-Reds for the rest of the game, as they skated to a 7-1 victory, outshooting STU 21-6 in the final 20 minutes. Defenceman Josh Kidd led the UNB offense with two goals (and another waived off) and Hunter Tremblay had three points. It wasn't all rosy for UNB, as key forward Daine Todd had to go the hospital for x-rays after being hit hard in the corner by two Tommies. Todd missed all of his first season at UNB after a shoulder injury he suffered in an exhibition game eventually required surgery, and he had to start all over again last season. For the Tommies, they are probably counting the days until goalie Charles Lavigne finishes serving his four-game suspension this coming Saturday.
Saint Mary's had their CIS championship banner raising Saturday night before a big crowd of over 3700 at the Halifax Forum. This time it was the X-Men spoiling the celebrations, as they won 4-2 in an emotional game. There were several physical altercations in the drawn out second period, but no fighting majors handed out by the referee. That wasn't the case in Moncton, where bitter rivals UdeM and UPEI racked up 111 minutes in penalties, including fighting majors in the final seconds of the game to Moncton's Francis Rochon and Panther Taylor Raszka. Moncton held on for the 5-3 win. There wasn't as many penalties in the Dal-Acadia game, but that match also featured fighting majors, to Tiger Benoit Gervais and Axeman Ryan Graham. Dal goalie Josh Disher was stellar in the game, as despite being outshot 43-24, the Tigers won 3-1, including an empty net goal.
So we have an interesting scene in the AUS standings right now with Moncton and StFX tied for first place with two wins each and everyone else is 1-1, except for the last place Tommies with two big losses. I wouldn't be surprised if everyone goes 1-1 next weekend ...