Hockey: AUS Weekly Update

It was a comparatively quiet weekend in AUS men’s hockey, as the teams ease into the Christmas exam break with most teams only having one game this week and one left next week. There are exceptions, all in Nova Scotia, as Acadia and StFX played twice and Saint Mary’s will play twice next week. As a result of the unbalanced schedule the Huskies will get both Wednesdays off in the second half, while the Axmen and X-Men each get one Wednesday off. You could consider that a bit of an advantage in the push to the playoffs in the second half as SMU gets to avoid completely the 3-games-in-5-nights test that most of their competitors will be involved in. Twice. Including the last week of the AUS regular season.

Unprecedented comeback keeps V-Reds in 1st place

The biggest CIS sports story of Friday night, well until later on when Laval came soclose to coming back and winning after a 23-0 first half deficit in the Vanier Cup, was UNB scoring THREE shorthanded goals in the third period to tie cross-campus rival St. Thomas, getting the winning goal even strength, and then adding ANOTHER shorthanded goal for insurance, albeit into an empty net. Two of those shorties came from defenceman/rover Jonathan Harty, perhaps showing off for his police constable mother who was on-duty at the game in STU’s barn.

This was a much anticipated game, with many in Fredericton, including both Daily Gleaner sports columnists, suggesting that maybe, just maybe, the Tommies might end their 27-game streak of futility against the V-Reds in The Battle of the Hill. For two periods it looked like it might happen, as STU scored twice off practiced plays in the first period and added a power play marker in the second period while being outshot 33-11 in the first 40 minutes. Then came that third period for the ages. You can read all about it here if you like.

There was more good news for UNB. They’ve looked beatable ever since goaltender Travis Fullerton had his emergency appendectomy surgery on November 5. Surprisingly he was in the warm-up Friday night and on the bench for the game. Monday morning the V-Reds announced an early Christmas gift. Geordie Wudrick had committed to UNB over the summer but decided to give pro hockey a try first. After playing the first half season in Germany, the 6’4” sniper will be joining the V-Reds after all for the second half. Now more competition in practice and another forward is going to have to sit in the stands when (if?} veteran Jordan Clendenning returns from his knee injury.

Friday – UNB 5 @ STU 3

Axemen flirted with first place

Coming into the weekend, and sliding under the radar a little bit, Acadia was the hottest team in the AUS with a five-game winning streak and just two points back of UNB. Friday in Antigonish defenceman Chris Owens scored his second goal at 7:09 of overtime for the win against the X-Men. In the rematch in the Axemen’s wide rink on late Sunday afternoon there was no scoring for two periods, and then rookie Nicolas Chouinard scored early in the third on a nice rush.. But then X woke up and scored three straight goals and added an empty netter. Granted Acadia had only four healthy regular defencemen and their fatigue might have been a factor. Next week Acadia hosts SMU, and they will hope for a win and a UNB loss to STU to allow them to go into the break tied for first place.

Friday – Acadia 4 @ StFX 3 OT
Sunday – StFX 4 @ Acadia 1

Les agiles déféquèrent le nid

Saturday Moncton was home and up 3-0 after one period to bitter rival UPEI. I won’t get into it, but there’s history there, and it’s not always pretty. Then power plays kick-started the Panthers offence. UEPI scored two goals in 14 seconds in the second period. They added two goals in 35 seconds in the third period. They added another for good measure. Three goals leads were obviously not safe on the weekend. I should add that UdeM and UPEI each scored a shorty.

Saturday – UPEI 5 @ UdeM 3

Remember the Huskies?

Going into that Acadia-StFX game on Sunday, the top five teams in the AUS were all 7-3 in their last 10 games. SMU was one of them. They got to play last place Dalhousie on Friday night, and surprisingly, needed to come back twice to tie the game and overtime to win it. Not something to brag about.

Friday – SMU 4 @ Dal 3 OT

Be careful with big cats

UPEI are deceptive. It seems like they have tentative slow first periods, but maybe that is just the setup for their second period attack – which is the one they have outscored their AUS opponents. Ask UNB. Now ask UdeM. The Panthers have an incredibly dangerous first line who are very opportunistic and dangerous on transition. Bobble the puck or make those long passes in the neutral zone at your peril when Matt Carter, Jordan Knox and Dana Fraser are on the ice.

Saturday – UPEI 5 @ UdeM 3

Have the X-Men finally woken up?

StFX has lost a lot of one-goal games this season when you discount empty netters. Three times now in OT. They split this past weekend, but came away with three big points in the standings. If they start playing 60 minute games in the second half like that last 20 minutes against Acadia the rest of the conference could get nervous.

Friday – Acadia 4 @ StFX 3 OT
Sunday – StFX 4 @ Acadia 1

St. Thomas gut wrench at Battle of the Hill

Give STU coach Troy Ryan credit. For their first meeting this season his game plan was to utilize practiced stretch passes and defensive zone faceoff counterattacks to catch UNB off balance plus drag out every whistle and line change to thwart any V-Red shift-to-shift momentum. Done, done and done. For two periods. Too much power play time in the third period apparently gave the Tommies too much time to think (dream?) about the potential outcome and they lost sight of the process. Ryan’s own words. For whatever reason, it was an epic collapse at home and now Friday night they skate into the V-Reds rink and try to do it all over again without the advantage of last line-change. I’ll be interested to see what the Ryan playbook is for this game.

Friday – UNB 5 @ STU 3

A glimmer of hope for Dalhousie

Bad news first. The Tigers losing streak is now 11 games. Good news? They pushed Saint Mary’s to overtime and their last two losses have been by one goal. Third-string rookie goaltender Philip Wright has his GAA down to 4:37 and is save percentage at .877, the same save percentage as injured started Bobby Nadeau. Not great, but not terrible.

Friday – SMU 4 @ Dal 3 OT

Looking ahead on Wednesday, StFX is at SMU (so they don’t have to do it second term?). As mentioned, the UNB-STU rematch is Friday night. SMU will close out the half against Acadia on Friday while Moncton and UPEI get back at it on the Island.
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