So is this the most competitive season in ages in AUS men's hockey? Ever? Both quarter-final series went the distance. Monday night one Game 3 was a 1-0 squeaker while the other went into double-overtime. Home ice was definitely an advantage as the home teams won all the games in both series.
Moncton - StFX
In one sentence: X-Men couldn't score in Moncton. Thursday was a tight, careful game until the third period. UdeM got two in the third and added an empty netter while P-A Marion made 30 saves for the shutout. Saturday in Antigonish StFX played much better and even managed to score first. But les Aigles Bleus answered with two of their own. X put on a furious push in the second period but Marion stood tall. Fortunately StFX cashed in on an early third period power play to tie the game and captain Murdoch MacLellan got the winner at 12:25. Game 3 was back in Moncton and the power outage returned to the X-Men.UdeM captain Dean Ouellet scored less than three minutes into the game on the power play and Marion earned another shutout. This one got interesting late in the game when defenceman Spencer McAvoy appeared to tie it on a wraparound but the referee waved it off apparently due to another X-Men in the crease interfering with Marion.
Thursday - StFX 0 @ UdeM 3
Saturday - UdeM 2 @ StFX 3
Monday - StFX 0 @ UdeM 1
UPEI - Acadia
This series? Lots of goals. Friday night the lead changed twice in the game before the Panthers rookie Chris Desousa scored the winner late in the third period. Sunday in Wolfville the Axemen had a three goal lead before UPEI got on the board. They answered that goal 31 seconds later. The Panthers did get some momentum back late in the second period but just couldn't close the gap in the third period, although they got a late goal to make it close. Monday in Charlottetown the first period was wild. Acadia scored early in the first, but UPEI replied just 14 seconds later and added another three goals in just over 13 minutes to chase Evan Mosher from the Axemen net. However Acadia scored a power play goal late in the first period and added a shorty early in the second period and the momentum went all their way. There was only 61 seconds left in the period when they scored to tie the game, and the with the sell-out crowd reeling they scored again 34 seconds later to take a lead into the second intermission. There was a lot of penalties called in the game, and Matt Carter took advantage of a Panthers power play early in the third period to tie the game. There were no more goals in the period, so after a short break off to the ten-minute overtime. Panthers made it challenging for themselves by taking a penalty, but they killed it off. Not to be outdone, they took another penalty late in OT, but Acadia helped them out by evening it up 28 seconds into the power play. This was followed by an intermission and off to the second overtime period. This one lasted 11:41 when after Acadia almost scored at one end of the ice the Panthers went back the other way on a 3-on-1 and Carter notched the winner.
Friday - Acadia 3 @ UPEI 4
Sunday - UPEI 3 @ Acadia 4
Monday - Acadia 5 @ UPEI 6 OT-2
UNB and Saint Mary's had first-round playoff byes thanks to their finishing one-two in the AUS standings. The Varsity Reds will now host UPEI in one best-of-five semi-final series while Saint Mary's has the home ice advantage in the series against Moncton. They haven't announced the schedule yet, but my guess is they'll probably start Thursday or Friday. The SMU-UdeM series is difficult to handicap. Les Aigles Bleus won both meetings in the first half while the Huskies won the two in the second half. This could come to home ice, which gives the advantage to SMU.
As for the other series, yes, the Panthers did beat the Varsity Reds three times out of four in the regular season, but the wins were against the second string goalie with the bad groin and the third string goalie who wasn't on their roster until November. And that third game? UNB came back from a 6-1 deficit to tie it 7-7 before losing the game by a late goal by Jared Gomes. Travis Fullerton returned to the UNB nets the next game and the V-Reds went 6-0-1 to close out the season, including a dominant 4-1 win over the Panthers on Feb. 10. This series will feature the top two offences in the AUS, but if Fullerton stays healthy he'll probably be the difference maker.
[Update: Although it hasn't been posted on the AUS schedule yet, it looks like both best-of-five series will start with games Friday-Saturday in Halifax and Fredericton. Also, I forgot to point out last night that this is the first playoff series win for the Panthers in 15 years. That was a win over Moncton that ended with an on-ice brawl, national talking head excitement and eventually the Dryden report.]