Men's Hockey: AUS Championship Starts Tonight

Starting tonight we’re going to have an all-New Brunswick final for supremacy in the Subway® AUS Men’s Hockey Championship for the first time since 2007. That time Moncton won the conference championship, hosted Nationals, and lost the gold-medal game to UNB, in overtime. This time the Varsity Reds are the host, so are les Aigles Bleus owed one by the hockey gods?

More bark than bite

The third game of the UPEI-UNB series was advertised as a grudge match between two aggrieved teams after a penalty fest in Game 2. It didn’t happen. What did happen is that the V-Reds came out and dominated the first period in Charlottetown and the Panthers were lucky to only be down 1-0 at the first intermission after being outshot 15-2. UPEI pushed back in the middle period, and took advantage of a power play to tie the game in the third while Mavric Parks continued to stone the UNB shooters. Late in the period a usually reliable UNB d-man bobbled the puck at the side of the V-Reds net and UPEI got an ugly one to take the lead. However 100 seconds later UNB tied it in the last minute going hard to the net just as they were going to pull their goalie. The V-Reds had almost complete control of the overtime against the perhaps deflated Panthers, and veteran forward Jordan Clendenning capped his comeback from his in-season ACL injury with the winner at 5:20 thanks to a nice pass from Christmas addition Shayne Wiebe. So a good UPEI team with a great young goalie was eliminated perhaps one round too soon because they had the misfortune of playing UNB, and not Moncton or SMU.

Wednesday – UNB 3 @ UPEI 2 OT 
** UNB takes semi-final series 3-0

Did the Huskies miss some meals?  Or eat too many?

The real SMU team apparently didn’t get off the bus Wednesday night, or maybe just their goalie. Rookie Anthony Peters was lit up for 3 goals on 7 shots in the first dozen minutes before he got the hook in lieu of Neil Conway. The Huskies pushed back hard, and outshot les Aigles Bleus 15-9 but were down 4-0 after 20 minutes, with that last goal a shorty by Eric Faille. The second period was more even with no goals for either team. The third? Well Faille scored early on the PP and then Huskies more or less lost it and it was a penalty fest the rest of the way. There were 102 penalty minutes divided almost equally between the two teams, with most of them in the final period that took forever to finish. The only positive for SMU was veteran Cam Fergus spoiling P-A Marion’s shutout bid with three minutes left in the game.

Coach Trevor Steinburg ripped his team in the Halifax papers afterwards in taking responsibility for not having them “prepared” to play Moncton, since it must be his fault that no one on the team showed up for their last two games. They were back in Moncton Saturday, and once again UdeM scored first, just 46 seconds in. There was no more scoring until the second period, when les Aigles Bleus scored 58 seconds in on the power play. SMU got on the board in the third period, once again thanks to once again to Fergus, but they could not find that tying goal despite outshooting les Aigles Bleus 11-5 in the final frame. A better game for the Huskies, but not enough.

Wednesday – SMU 1 @ UdeM 6 
Saturday – SMU 1 @ UdeM 2 
** UdeM takes semi-final series 3-1 

The/Le Battle/Battaile for/de New/Nouveau Brunswick

No it’s not just an English-French thing, but that has a lot to do with the Fredericton-Moncton rivalry that predates the UNB-UdeM rivalry. The funny thing is that in the region Moncton was seen as an English bastion, albeit bilingual, while Anglos bought houses across the causeway in Riverview and Francos in neigbouring Dieppe. Well enough NB geopolitics, for those outside the Maritimes the simple takeaway is that UNB is the provincial university for Anglophones and Université de Moncton is the provincial university for Francophones and the two hockey programs have a long and sometimes bitter history.

Both teams have 11 AUS championships and they each have four CIS championships, with of course the UNB successes being more recent. And as mentioned at the top, the last time these teams met in the AUS finals was back in 2007. UdeM took the bitterly contested series, but UNB got the last laugh in the gold-medal game, on Moncton’s ice.

As always seems to be the case, the focus in this series will probably be on goaltenders. Moncton’s P-A Marion has only given up one goal in each of his last three games. UNB’s Travis Fullerton, a Riverview native, has given up an average of two goals per game in his last three games. You might then give the edge to Moncton, but Fullerton is the one with two CIS championship rings even if he’s had to battle illness and a knee injury this season.

The good news for hockey fans is that Moncton coach Serge Bourgeois, the probable coach of the year in the AUS, has stated that his team is going to “go for it” and “not play it safe” against UNB. So no trap-fest as was the case with both Acadia and StFX against the V-Reds in last year’s playoffs. I find Moncton is at their best when they score off the rush, and if they can get early leads they become a very confident team. Conversely, history has shown that usually when UNB gets an early lead UdeM has a hard time coming back. In any case, it should be a fun series since all the pressure is off since both teams already have spots booked at the Cavendish® University Cup presented by Home Depot®.

If you want a more detailed statistical break down of the series, check out
  • Game 1: Wednesday, March 7th at UNB, 7 PM 
  • Game 2: Thursday, March 8th at UNB, 7 PM 
  • Game 3: Sunday, March 11th at Moncton, 7PM
  • Game 4: Tuesday, March 13th at Moncton, 7 PM* 
  • Game 5: Thursday, March 15th at UNB, 7 PM PM* 
  • * If necessary
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  1. Great job Dave! I think both teams will bring high energy tonight. I am hoping for a sell out crowd.

  2. I had previously noted in this piece that Cam Fergus was the captain of SMU. Thanks to Fred D. pointing out my mistake. I know better. Colby Pridham is the captain while Fergus is the key veteran who made such a difference to the Huskies when he came back to the team this fall when his pro options didn't go the way he wanted, much as was the case with UNB's Kyle Bailey, who is a captain.