Hockey: AUS Weekly Update

If there are any doubters still out there, this weekend should have shown that the AUS is very competitive, and it is not just UNB and everyone else. The first place Varsity Reds only came away with one point on their weekend in Nova Scotia. Saint Mary’s picked up two wins against teams that beat them last week and now find themselves back in second place, tied with Acadia who split their weekend. Moncton also split to stay one point back in fourth place, as did UPEI in fifth place. StFX got one win and are just four points of surging Dalhousie for the last playoff spot. It was a tough weekend for STU, who might have seen their faint hopes for a playoff spot quashed with two losses.

How and when is UNB going to fix their broken power play?

It is mind boggling that a team as deep and skilled as the Varsity Reds saw their power play go 0-for-the-weekend (not for the first time) and slide below Dal’s as the least productive in the AUS with an 11.5% success rate. While they lead the conference in shorthanded goals with 9, UNB has only scored 10 with the man advantage. Sixth place StFX leads the pack with 26 PP goals. Saint Mary’s won a tight game Friday with a third-period power play goal. StFX had a lead after the first period Saturday thanks to two power play goals. Even strength UNB had the edge in large parts of those games. Teams take liberties, and resulting penalties, against the reigning CIS champs now with impunity. And while we’re piling on, it is also a bit of a surprise that UNB is 0-for-2 in overtime shootouts this season, and has yet to score a goal in those mano-a-mano situations. I know the V-Reds are a high tempo, puck possession, puck pursuit, defence focused team, but maybe they might want to focus practice some of those skillsy things too, like the power play and the shootout.

There were a couple of positives for UNB in the StFX game. Newcomer Shayne Wiebe picked up his first-ever and second UNB goals, and defencemen Chad Denny got his first-ever goal on a bullet shot in front of lots of family and friends from the Eskasoni First Nation at the game. And UNB did come back from a 4-1 deficit to salvage an all-important point in the standings.

Friday – UNB 1 @ SMU 2 
Saturday – UNB 4 @ StFX 5 OT-SO

Saint Mary’s back in hunt for playoff bye 

SMU head coach Trevor Stienburg was not happy with his team after their previous weekend. They performed better and got the preferred results against the same two opponents this past weekend at home. They look more like the CIS champions of two seasons ago with their relentless forecheck. Sure, they might have got some help from a wonky net peg several times in the second period Friday, but they controlled the early part of the third period and then took advantage of a long man-advantage situation to get the winner. It doesn’t hurt that Neil Conway is playing a lot better in nets. Saturday they responded to a UPEI goal with four of their own, two of them from Patrick O’Keefe, and held on for the win this time against the Panthers.

Friday – UNB 1 @ SMU 2 
Saturday – UPEI 3 @ SMU 5

Acadia is not going away

The Axemen score goals. Only the V-Reds score more. Friday they traded goals with Moncton until les Aigles Bleus scored three in the third period to break the game open. Saturday Acadia scored two in the first period, but only Spencer Jezegou managed to score for the team in red and blue on the first of eight power play opportunities against the Tommies in the second period. The heavy-handed ref gave them two more chances in the third period. Acadia was 1-for-10 on the PP in the game, while STU went 0-for-6.

Friday – Acadia 3 @ UdeM 6 
Saturday – Acadia 3 @ STU 1 

And neither is Moncton 

That win over Acadia was big for UdeM, as it had temporarily moved them ahead of the Axemen in the standings. Then Saturday the Tigers were in town and perhaps les Aigles took them lightly? Dal scored twice in the first, twice in the second and added another in the third before Moncton got on the scoresheet. Lost opportunity for the home team. Oh, and Christian Gaudet, who just got back into the Moncton line-up is reportedly now out 4-6 weeks with a broken foot. I did discover one interesting stat after the weekend: While UNB dominates the AUS plus/minus stats, the four non V-Reds in the top 15 +/- all play for Moncton.

Friday – Acadia 3 @ UdeM 6 
Saturday – Dal 5 @ UdeM 1 

Panthers keep pace Friday

UPEI stretched their win streak to three games when they exploded for seven goals from seven different players and chased X-Men goalie Joey Perricone after just one period. Saturday it was the Huskies getting the goals in bunches, with Panther Jared Gomes scoring twice in the third period to get them in the game a little late, but SMU captain Colby Pridham slammed the door with an empy-netter with four seconds to go.

Friday – UPEI 7 @ StFX 3 
Saturday – UPEI 3 @ SMU 5 

X-Men hanging onto playoff spot

Not even a year after playing in the University Cup final-six, the X-Men are in danger of missing the AUS playoffs. Who saw that coming? That hammering by UPEI Friday made it four losses in a row, which made the Saturday win against UNB all-important. The X-Men blew a 4-1 second period lead against the V-Reds, and their four minutes of power play time in the ten-minute overtime certainly helped keep the UNB attackers at bay. First year forward Michael Kirkpatrick picked up StFX male athlete-of-the-week honours for his two power play goals in the first period and his stylish shootout goal.

Friday – UPEI 7 @ StFX 3 
Saturday – UNB 4 @ StFX 5 OT-SO 

Dal wins two in a row, and three of their last four

The Tigers are hot. New coach. Healthier players. Goalies on their game. Former assistant coach Chris Donnelly is now 3-1 since taking over behind the Dal bench during the Christmas break when Pete Belliveau moved into the “front office” as general manager. After squeaking out a 1-0 win over STU last week, Dal pumped seven goals past Charles Lavigne Friday. Then five goals on Moncton’s Andre-Michel Guay on Saturday. David MacDonald, an AUS all-star defenceman when he played for the Huskies, had two goals and an assist against the Tommies and was named Dal’s male athlete-of-the-week.

Friday – Dal 7 @ STU 
Saturday – Dal 5 @ UdeM 1

Tough, tough weekend for the Tommies

STU lost two close ones on the road the previous weekend. The rebuilding Tommies then got lit up by Dal at home on Friday, a team they HAVE to beat for any hope at the playoffs. Saturday they got into penalty trouble, or referee trouble, depending who you talk to. Acadia cruises to a 3-1 win and now STU has lost eight in a row. And they host UNB on Wednesday. Fun. Well somebody’s losing streak will end, and most people’s money will be on the Fredericton team in red and black.

This week

There are three games Wednesday: the 3rd edition of the Battle of the Hill in Fredericton; Acadia at Dal; Moncton at UPEI in the Fixed Link Fixture. Friday we’ve got UNB at UdeM in a classic Fredericton-Moncton rivalry, UPEI at STU, StFX at Acadia and SMU at Dal in the Battle of Halifax. Saturday sees UNB host UPEI, STU at Moncton (no love lost there), Dal at SMU to continue the Battle of Halifax and Acadia at StFX.


* Photo courtesy of Brian Smith
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