Well, it took until the second game of the semi-finals, but a road team finally won a game in the AUS men's hockey playoffs. We've also had some fireworks, serious penalty minutes, suspensions, and veiled threats of payback.
UNB Varsity Reds (1st place) vs. UPEI Panthers (4th place)
Game 1 of their best-of-five series saw UPEI looking a lot sharper at the outset then the well rested (and a bit rusty) V-Reds, with the Panthers scoring twice on Travis Fullerton in the first five minutes. UNB picked up their play and drew three straight penalties, but came up blank on the power plays. They did score a late goal, but UPEI's Chris Desousa answered on the power play to make it 3-1. The second and third periods saw UNB dominate territorial play as they chipped away at the UPEI lead before finally going ahead in the third period. It didn't help their cause that the most dominant V-Red forward on the ice, Tyler Carroll, was tossed from the game early in the third period for a checking from behind major penalty. UPEI netminder Mavric Parks was named the game's 3rd star for his 37 saves in the loss.
Game 2 was an edgier beast. You can read all the details here or here and count the penalties here. UNB came out hitting. There was lots of penalties. Refereeing was inconsistent, so the teams, fans and media all questioned the calls and non-calls. UNB scored first, and UPEI answered. UNB scored three times in second period. V-Reds picked up another major penalty for checking from behind. The UPEI victim went out and earned a perhaps retaliatory checking from behind penalty of his own in the third period. UNB scored again. Three minutes later while on the PK, UNB d-man Ben Wright dumped the puck into UPEI corner and then ran over Parks when he went into the corner to get the puck. Heated scrum and major penalty for Wright. After their power play is over a UPEI player on his first shift bumped into Fullerton in his crease and earned two plus 10. Heated scrum. Soon after Desousa blindsided UNB's Thomas Nesbitt in neutral ice. Another scrum while Desousa gets two and ten for hitting from behind. UNB reacted by swapping out Fullerton in nets. UPEI responded by swapping out their goalie. Two minutes later on the power play a Panther pulled the skates out from under goalie Dan LaCosta and a goal is waved off and the culprit heads to the box.
After the game UPEI head coach Forbes MacPherson laid the blame for the shenanigans at UNB's feet, noting that UNB was the team with their second checking from behind major and 'everything happened' after Parks was run. He also pointed out that he was happy how his team responded in the the third period and that UNB 'still has to play on the Island'. The implied threat here is that hockey teams from the mainland have over the years always complained about the traditional "old school" hockey played in PEI. Coach MacPherson is an Islander. So is UNB's Gardiner MacDougall. They know what is being alluded to.
For their part UNB didn't seem very bothered by the what may happen on the Island. UNB captain Kyle Bailey, while very disappointed in Wright's uncharacteristic hit on Parks, said his team is prepared to play whatever style of game their opponents want to play. They won't have to worry about Chris Desousa Wednesday, who tweeted out Monday that he'd been given a two-game suspension for that high-hit in the third period.
Friday - UPEI 3 @ UNB 4
Saturday - UPEI 1 @ UNB 5
Saint Mary's Huskies (2nd place) vs. UdeM Aigles Bleus (3rd place)
Game 1 did not start well for Moncton with P-A Marion out sick and therefore backup Andre-Michel Guay in nets. It wasn't all Guay's fault that UdeM was down 4-0 after the first period. According to their coach Serge Bourgeois they didn't wake up until the third period, and then after it was 6-0.
Game 2 Moncton showed up, and perhaps not coincidentally, Marion was back in their nets. Despite being outshot every period UdeM was up 1-0 after one, captain Dean Ouellet converted on a penalty shot in the second period and they added another goal to make it 3-0. SMU captain Cam Fergus scored early in the third period on a power play, but that was as close as the Huskies would come against Marion who made 34 saves for the win.
Friday - UdeM 2 @ SMU 6
Saturday - UdeM 3 @ SMU 1
UNB is at UPEI on Wednesday, and will stay on the Island for Game 4 if necessary. If there is a Game 5 it will be Sunday afternoon in Fredericton. SMU is at UdeM on Wednesday. Game 4 will be Saturday night, also in Moncton. If there is a Game 5 in this series it will be Monday back in Halifax.