The Huskies are back! Saint Mary’s and Moncton were the only AUS team to win both of their men’s hockey games on the weekend, and SMU managed to halt UNB’s winning streak at eight games. The reigning CIS champions took overtime to put away the pesky Panthers on Friday night and Saturday a lucky bounce was the deciding factor in their win over the Varsity Reds.
Friday’s game against UPEI was low scoring, with the Panthers scoring in the second period and the Huskies not solving UPEI netminder Jhase Sniderman until 13:04 of the third period. Tied 1-1 at the end of regulation play, despite SMU outshooting UPEI 32-18, it didn’t take the home team long in overtime, as SMU team captain Justin Munden scored just 44 seconds in for the 2-1 victory. Saturday night UNB was in town, but this time SMU was first on the scoreboard, when rookie Chris MacKinnon scored on the 5-on-3 powerplay at 3:44. They extended their lead at 12:01 on a lucky bounce, when UNB goalie Travis Fullerton went behind his net to play the dumped-in puck, only to watch helplessly as the puck instead caromed out of the right corner to the front of the crease and Brad Smith was the first one there to push the loose puck into the empty net. It is Smith’s first goal since scoring the overtime winner against Alberta in the 2010 University Cup championship game. Lachlan MacIntosh scored late in the first period to draw UNB within a goal, but that was a close as they came with SMU adding an empty netter with 17 seconds left in the game. The Varsity Reds uncharacteristically were assessed 10 minor penalties versus five for the Huskies, and it is the first time SMU has beat UNB since winning the AUS championship on March 18, 2009.
UPEI managed to get three points out of the weekend, as Saturday night they were in Antigonish and came away with a 3-1 victory. StFX scored first, but the Panthers scored three unanswered goals, including two by the CIS Rookie of the year, Jared Gomes. Sniderman had another strong game in nets, as UPEI was outshot 31-22. That setback continued the losing for StFX, who were soundly beat 6-1 the preceding night by UNB. In that game UNB dominated the physical and territorial play and outshot the X-Men 46-29 (although the official game sheet later reduced the count to 35-23). The X-Men are now winless in six games, and a symptom of their malaise is that they have only managed to score six goals over their last four games.
Moncton managed two wins at home on the weekend. On Friday they spotted Dal the first goal, but used their power play to get back in the game, going 3-for-5 with the man advantage for the 4-3 win. On Saturday it was a tighter game, as UdeM and Acadia only managed a goal apiece in the second period. Ten minutes of overtime decided nothing, even though les Aigles Bleus outshot the Axemen 11-1 while skating 4-on-4. Moncton captain Dean Ouellet scored in the overtime shootout, and two Acadia misses and another Moncton goal made this one a 2-1 final victory.
Life continues to be difficult for the last place Tommies. On Friday STU hosted Acadia, and by all reports played a good game, with the game tied 2-2 late in the third period. However, Mike Reich was handed a double-minor penalty when his high stick cut the lip of an Acadia player and Philippe Bertrand scored at 19:25 on the power play to put Acadia ahead. The Axemen added an empty netter with six seconds to go to make it a 4-2 final. Saturday night against Dalhousie, STU’s power play went quiet (0-for-7) while Dal’s came to life (3-for-5). Despite this the two teams were tied 3-3 at the end of regulation. At 5:48 of the extra period Tiger Francois Gauthier scored for the 4-3 win. So The Tommies played two good games, and only come away with one point for the weekend.
A peek at the AUS standings shows the Varsity Reds solidly in first place with an 8-2 conference record (and 16-2 overall), scoring 45 goals while only giving up 17 to date. Surprising UPEI sits in second place with a 6-3-1 record, followed by Acadia and Moncton tied for third place just a point back. SMU is one more point back in fifth place, but still with two games in hand on everyone ahead of them in the standings (and those potential four points could put them in second place). Struggling StFX in one more point back in sixth place, and a testament to the closeness of the AUS, Dal is only one point back of X in seventh place, with a crucial game in hand on the X-Men. Last place Saint Thomas right now is five points out of a playoff spot, and can ill afford to lose any more ground.
Looking ahead to next week, we have local rivalry games between Dalhousie and SMU on Saturday and UNB and STU on Sunday afternoon. However there are lots of other potentially intense games as well, including Acadia at SMU on Wednesday, Moncton at UNB on Friday, SMU at StFX on Friday and Moncton at UPEI on Saturday.