It was an uncommon weekend for men's hockey in the AUS, with half the teams having Friday off. I can't remember the last time that this happened, and it runs against unwritten (and maybe they are written, but I don't know where ...) "fair play" rules in the AUS where rested teams are not supposed to be scheduled against teams who played the day or night before.
Friday night was revenge night for the Varsity Reds, with no risk of them not having the appropriate focus and determination. UNB's only loss this season came opening night in Charlottetown, and they made sure that there wouldn't be a repeat Panthers win. If not for their goalie Mark Guggenberger, who got the win back on October 15, this could have been a blowout as UNB cruised to a 4-1 win, outshooting UPEI 41-19.
Saturday night the V-Reds travelled down the Trans-Canada Highway to play provincial rivals Université de Moncton, who had Friday night off. Except someone forgot to remind the local fans about the rivalry, because during the warm-ups there were as many UNB fans as UdeM loyalists at the game. Eventually there was a decent crowd, but not what we've become accustomed to when the Red 'n Black come to town. The good news was that the teams didn't forget they don't like each other, and this was a very physical game from the drop of the puck. It was also the first night of the season that two referees were used on the ice. The four-official setup will be used four more times this season, plus playoffs and the University Cup. UNB dominated this game, winning most of the faceoffs, puck battles, and territorial play as they outshot les Aigles Bleus 44-22 in the 4-0 win. Hometown boy Travis Fullerton got the shutout for the V-Reds, who are now in sole possession of first place in the AUS, with a 5-1-0 record (plus a perfect 8-0 in preseason games against CIS and NCAA opponents). Moncton, who won their first two games of the season, has now earned only one point in their last four games.
Offensively Hunter Tremblay's line started executing better for UNB on the weekend, as Tremblay has 2 goals and 3 assists to put him into a tie for first place in the AUS points race while linemates Chris Culligan (2G, 2A) and Jordan Clendenning (1G, 1A) had a good two games as well. Not that the V-Reds have been struggling to find goals as the first line got their act together; ten other UNB players have scored so far this season and half of that group have two or more goals.
Former first place StFX only picked up one point on the weekend. In Wolfville the Axemen saw a two-goal lead from the first period disappear in the second period. In the third period Acadia went ahead again, only to see X-Man sniper and captain Chris Hulit score his second of the game (and AUS-leading 8th of the season) to tie it once again. Rookie Jacob Dietrich scored on the power play at 12:47 to give Acadia their third and final lead, before Andrew Clark added an empty netter as time expired for the 5-3 win. Saturday night the story was the great start by the rested Dalhousie Tigers, and the play of their goaltender Josh Disher. Rookie Dan Joyce scored just 25 seconds into the game, and added another in the second period to put the Tigers up 3-0. StFX eventually responded with three goals of their own to tie the game. The 10-minute overtime solved nothing, so they went to a shootout and Dal's Brad McConnell was the hero. Disher made 45 saves in 70 minutes of play to help steal the 4-3 win for the Tigers.
Saint Mary's now has two games in hand on UNB, as they only played one game the previous weekend, and just once this past weekend, Saturday night at Acadia. Acadia was up 2-1 after the first 20 minutes, but then the Huskies scored three times in the second period, and another early in the third period to blow the game open. The Axemen did get a goal later in the final period, but SMU potted an empty netter for the 6-3 win.
The third saint, St. Thomas, didn't have as good a week. While they did get an overtime 4-3 win against Moncton on Wednesday, the Charles Lavigne incident cost them their top goaltender for the weekend. They got humbled, or probably more accurately embarrassed, at home Saturday night by the Panthers. UPEI's Cory Vitarelli notched a hat trick and two assists, and Michael MacIsaac had a pair of goals and assists as the Panthers put 43 shots on net in the 10-5 victory, a game that was reportedly more a game of shinny than a hockey match.
This weekend the focus will be on Fredericton, as UNB hosts two nationally ranked teams: defending CIS champion Saint Mary's on Friday night and StFX on Saturday. This will be the first meeting between the V-Reds and the X-Men since UNB was upset by StFX in the AUS playoffs.