[Update: Tuesday night UPEI blew 2 goal lead in 3rd period, but Cory Vitarelli scored in OT to defeat Moncton 5-4. In Halifax Shea Kewin scored all five goals, with Ben Breault assisting on each of them, as Dalhousie beat Acadia 5-4. Tigers now in 6th place, one point ahead of UdeM.]
So not a lot changed this week in the AUS. The standings are still tight, with the main spotlight on Moncton and Dalhousie as they battle for the last playoff spot. UNB had their winning streak halted at ten games, but they clinched first place a while ago. Despite losing twice to StFX two weeks ago, reigning CIS champs Saint Mary’s are now riding the longest winning streak in the AUS, three games, and have a two point lead on “X” for second place, with only two games left for both teams in the regular season. Acadia is playing more like what was expected of them, and are tied with the X-Men for third place, and they have an all important game in hand on their provincial rivals. UPEI’s four game losing streak has them all alone in fifth spot, but with three games to go for the Panthers they could still mathematically end up in second place, but I wouldn’t bet the house on it. Only St. Thomas is out of the playoffs and in spoiler mode; well come to think of it, UNB at the top is also playing spoiler since they can’t finish worse than first place.
So the big game last Friday was the head-to-head for sixth place with the Tigers et les Aigles Bleus. Moncton was up 2-1 after the first ten and a half minutes and chased starting Dal goalie Josh Disher. The game was tied at 2-2 after two periods. At 13:36 UdeM retook the lead on second half addition Alexandre Leduc’s power play goal and then extended their lead less than a minute later when another Christmas addition, Eric Faille, scored on a rare penalty shot. Dal sniper Ben Breault got the Tigers within a goal after they pulled Bobby Nadeau, but they came up short in the 4-3 loss and slid temporarily into seventh place. However redemption came the next night in Fredericton, as the Tommies squandered a two-goal lead going into the third period and the Tigers responded with 17 shots and four unanswered goals to win it 6-4. Meanwhile in Wolfville, Moncton scored first but Acadia replied with three second period goals and won the game 3-2. So Dal and Moncton were back to a tie for sixth place. The good news for les Aigles Bleus is that they can afford to keep the status quo; they have won all four meetings against the Tigers this season and therefore hold the tie-breaker.
Friday night at the venerable Halifax Forum the Huskies were up on the Panthers 3-0 after just 8:25 of the first period. UPEI’s offence eventually got going, but SMU matched their output and the game finished 6-3 for Saint Mary’s. Linemates Cam Fergus and Cory Tanaka each had two goals to pace the Huskies. Saturday night was the much anticipated match between the Huskies and Varsity Reds. The game delivered – it was a fast paced, skilled game with few penalties. SMU came out on top 3-1 in a close and hard fought match, just like the last time they met at the Forum, and despite the game having no effect on UNB’s place atop the standings, you wouldn’t know it from the way V-Reds captain Kyle Bailey called out his team after the game.
Speaking of hard fought, that was the case in UNB’s Friday date against StFX, where the X-Men looked to do everything physically possible to try to get UNB off their game, helped along by some very inconsistent officiating. UNB was up 1-0 less than a minute in and 2-0 by the midway point of the first period. X-Men goaltender Joey Perricone, CIS male athlete of the previous week, was solid the rest of the game, and it wasn’t until late in the third period, on a 5-on-3 power play, that StFX sniper Chris Hulit finally spoiled Derek Yeomans’ shutout bid. That 2-1 loss knocked the X-Men out of their second place tie with SMU.
StFX had a better game against slumping UPEI on Saturday night, breaking a second period tie with two unanswered goals and an empty netter to win 4-1. Back to Friday night, STU was down early at home to Acadia, and though they scored two goals in the third period it was yet another case of too little, too late in losing 4-2.
So tonight, Tuesday, Moncton is at UPEI in a game between two normally bitter rivals, so one could expect lots of PIMs, while Acadia is at Dalhousie. UdeM will of course be looking for the win, but they really only have to match Dalhousie’s performance for the next three games and they are in the playoffs and the Tigers are out.
Wednesday night STU is at UNB in a game that has no effect on the standings. Except these are cross-campus rivals. And the Tommies haven’t beat the V-Reds in 26 straight games. And it is the 19th annual Mark Jeffrey Memorial game for UNB, which is a big game for their players and a juicy target for the spoiler Tommies. So nothing to play for and everything to play for.
This weekend we wrap up the regular season in the AUS. UNB will be at Acadia and Dalhousie, trying to push bitter rivals Acadia (you should have seen the gong show in Fredericton last time they played …) down the standings and eliminate the Tigers from the playoffs. Saint Mary’s will be trying to extend STU’s misery on Friday, and they they’ll be trying to eliminate Moncton from the playoffs on Saturday night. So fun night for both UNB and SMU to end the regular season. UPEI will be attempt to stop the losing when they face Dal on Friday and Acadia on Saturday, and StFX is at Moncton on Friday and STU on Saturday.
It looks like it will be probably be after Saturday night’s games before we know who wins second place and the other first round playoff bye, and which team will be joining the Tommies in watching the playoffs.