Only a few games this week as we finish up the first half and head into the exam and Christmas break. For teams like UNB the long break couldn't come sooner, as they try to heal up the injured (they had six starters out Saturday) while for reigning CIS champion Saint Mary's it might be a bit of a momentum killer as they've been nicely rounding into form these last few weeks. For teams at the bottom of the standings, like Moncton and St. Thomas, a chance to stop the bleeding (at least for awhile) and firm up the rumoured reinforcements.
The week started out with three 4-0 blankings. Tuesday night Dal goalie Bobby Nadeau, who was named AUS male athlete of the week for his standout play last week, got outperformed by StFX's Joey Perricone. The X-Men were up 2-0 after two periods, and added a shorthanded goal and a last second power play goal by Brett Morrison for the win.
Wednesday night it was the Huskies putting on a clinic against the visiting Axemen, who didn't really appear to threaten. Like the game above, the victors were up 2-0 after 40 minutes, and SMU added two power play goals in the third period, including Cam Fergus' second goal of the game. Neil Conway picked up his second shutout of the season.
Friday night UNB was looking to break their two-game losing streak, while UdeM was on a four-game slide. The biggest crowd of the season in Fredericton, 3621, restlessly had to wait 47 minutes for a goal, as Moncton's P.-A. Marion was flawless on 30 shots. Then Dion Campbell punctured les bleus balloon, and the V-Reds scored four goals in five minutes. The last goal was historic, as Jordan Clendenning one-timed a Hunter Tremblay pass on the power play, and Tremblay set a new UNB career regular season points record - 178 points in 96 games played. Travis Fullerton quietly and efficiently picked up his AUS-leading third shutout of the season.
Also on Friday the Tommies were in Charlottetown to play the Panthers. Despite giving up a goal to CIS rookie of the year Jared Gomes just 47 seconds in, STU managed to tie the game late in the first period on the power play, and take the lead in the second period. UPEI tied it late in the period, but STU took back the lead again in the third period. However Gomes tied the game up again five minutes later and Cory Vitarelli scored the winner at 2:33 of overtime for the 4-3 win. STU's Charlie Lavigne did his best to keep his team in the game, making 40 saves.
There was only one game Saturday to close out the half, as the Tommies had to travel on to Halifax to play the Huskies in a game postponed from October. STU was opportunistic, nabbing three goals on 24 shots, but Lavigne saw 41 shots come his way from domineering Saint Mary's, and four got past him. The Tommies have certainly improved their play of late, and goaltending keeps them in games, but they don't have enough skilled players to beat the top teams in the conference.
So at the break we see the AUS standings tighter than they've been in years, with only six points separating first to sixth place. Sure UNB has come back to the pack a bit this year, and injuries have a lot to do with that, but the rest of the conference has improved as well, and should get due credit. After all, there are three Panthers leading the points race (Matt Carter, Vitarelli and Mike MacIsaac) before you find V-Reds Tremblay and Chris Culligan tied for fourth place. Parity is the overused, but accurate, description of the AUS this season. Maybe some of the Top 10 voters should be paying more attention to what's going on in the Maritimes ...