Hockey: AUS Weekly Update

So we’re into the last week of the regular season in AUS men’s hockey and we still have a battle for 1st and 2nd place and the first-round playoff byes, while down at the bottom of the standings two teams each have feint hopes of still making the playoffs. A lot could be sorted out Wednesday night. If first place UNB beats St. Thomas, STU’s long shot is done. If StFX beats Dal, the Tigers will be hanging on by a thin thread. On the other hand if Dal wins, is it panic time for the X-Men who find would themselves leapfrogged by the Tigers for the last playoff spot? UdeM and UPEI’s game on Wednesday can certainly dash first place dreams for someone.

V-Reds loosen grip on top spot slightly

The good news on the weekend for UNB was that got three out of four points on the road. The bad news was that second place Huskies got four points and are just one point back. The V-Reds have some insurance as they have a game in hand on SMU which they will make up Wednesday evening hosting St. Thomas. Friday night a lot of the play on the big ice in Wolfville was played between the blue lines. UNB had the early lead on a power play goal (a bit of a rare sight lately) and Acadia tied it late in the first on their power play. Acadia took the lead fairly early in the second period, but UNB took the play in the latter half of the period and tied the game again, and then went ahead early in the third period and held on for the win. Saturday was a different affair as UNB dominated Dal territorially and on the shot clock (39-17), but the Tigers rallied with two power play goals to tie the game and goalie Wendell Vye stood on his head to keep his team in the game, making 21 saves in the third period alone. The ten minute overtime lead to a shootout, and that ended up going to eight shooters apiece before Brett Theberge notched the winner versus Travis Fullerton. It was the Fullerton’s first loss in ten starts this season.

Friday – UNB 3 @ Acadia 2 
Saturday – UNB 2 @ Dal 3 OT-SO 

Huskies charging hard 

SMU had it relatively easy Friday, as they got an early power play goal and cruised to a 8-2 win over the Tommies. Lucas Bloodoff scored SMU’s sixth goal at 5:57 to chase Tommies netminder Charles Lavigne, and then added two more goals 11 seconds apart later in the period. While they didn’t score as many goals against Moncton the next night, they scored three times in a second period they outshot UdeM 20-7, and then cruised to another win, giving up a shorthanded goal in the third to make in interesting.

Friday – STU 2 @ SMU 8 
Saturday – UdeM 2 @ SMU 3 

Panthers also in the hunt for first

Remember last week when I mentioned that UPEI scores goals, lots of them? Friday Jared Gomes got the unnatural natural hat-trick (power play, shorthanded and even-strength goal) [and somebody please tell me if there is a “Gordie Howe hat-trick” like nickname for this …] to put the nails in the Dal coffin Friday. Saturday they surprisingly blew out Acadia, with Gomes held to a goal and an assist while Matt Carter had two goals to lead the UPEI offence. This one got chippy in the last half of the game. If UNB and SMU ahead of them stumble, UPEI could bolt into first place this weekend, especially since they host UNB on Friday and have beaten them three times already this season. Oh, and one intangible this season that I haven’t mentioned before. UNB and UPEI are travel partners, so it makes for some tough weekends for their opponents. Has UPEI benefited on some Saturdays because their opponent just gave their all against UNB the night before? Or vice versa?

Friday – UPEI 5 @ Dal 2 
Saturday – UPEI 6 @ Acadia 1 

And yes, Moncton could still finish in first 

Les Aigles Bleus are now on a small losing streak, and need to end it if they still have hopes for first or second place. Friday they battled in a back and forth game with StFX, tied it in the third, and then lost in overtime while on the power play when Brennan Wray got the shorty. That’s gotta sting. On Saturday it didn’t really seem like they were in it against Saint Mary’s despite Eric Faille’s shorthanded goal in the third period. Now Wednesday’s matchup against bitter rival UPEI is a must win, as are their weekend games against STU and UNB in Fredericton.

Friday – StFX 4 @ UdeM 3 OT 
Saturday – SMU 2 @ UdeM 2 

Acadia can’t finish first 

The Axemen’s two weekend losses knocked them out of competition for first place. Now second place is dicey, as they would need to beat Dal on Friday while SMU loses to StFX, and then it looks like they have to beat Saint Mary’s by two goals on Saturday to win the tie breaker. SMU is 2-1 head-to-head and +1 on goal differential. And that’s all for naught if UPEI picks up just two points in their three games this week, as the Panthers have the tiebreaker already against the Axemen. So I might be preparing to sell first round playoff tickets just in case.

Friday – UNB 3 @ Acadia 2 
Saturday – UPEI 6 @ Acadia 1

Another gut-check week for X-Men

StFX stayed in sixth place thanks to that overtime win against Moncton on Friday. Then they turned around Saturday and put themselves in danger Saturday with a not so good game against STU. They never had the lead, and did battle back twice to tie the game, but the X-Men appeared to come unglued late in the third period. There was a line brawl (well an AUS version when penalties are harsh) when StFX goalie Joey Perricone had enough of STU antagonizer Chris Morehouse and gave him a whack with the blocker. Then on the next shift gloves came off (and surprisingly no fighting majors were called) when STU’s Andrew Andricopoulos took exception to a high hit X’s Scott Brannon placed on one of his teammates, and big Kyell Henegan was third man in with Brannon.

Friday – StFX 4 @ UdeM 3 OT 
Saturday – StFX 3 @ STU 6 

Dal’s got goaltending. Well one.

Rookie goalie Wendell Vye has been one of the bright spots for Dalhousie this season. He was pressed into action sooner than the team wanted when incumbent Bobby Nadeau battled injuries in the first half, and Vye has started to shine in the second half. A week ago he and the Tigers power play stole a point against UNB. This past Saturday the power play, Vye and Brett Theberge, the eighth Dal shooter in the shootout, stole them two points against UNB. It didn’t go as well for Nadeau against UPEI on Friday, but the Panthers been scoring lots of goals against lots of folks this year. If Dal wins against Acadia and StFX this weekend, they're into the playoffs.

Friday – UPEI 5 @ Dal 2 
Saturday – UNB 2 @ Dal 3 OT-SO

STU won’t go away

It speaks to the parity in the AUS, and the struggles StFX are having, that we enter the last weekend of the season with the bottom team not yet eliminated from the playoffs. Well, that could end Wednesday in the UNB-STU “Battle of the Hill”, but still the Tommies are hanging in there. It will probably come down to how well Charles Lavigne plays in nets these last three games. He’s stood on his head so far against UNB. STU needs to keep playing like they did against StFX and not like how they played against SMU. And win their biggest game of the year Wednesday. If they win that, Friday against Moncton is the biggest game of the year. Win that, and your final game against UPEI, in Summerside for Hockey Day in Canada, is the biggest game of the year. And hope Dal and StFX lose. No problem.

Friday – STU 2 @ SMU 8 
Saturday – StFX 3 @ STU 6
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