Men's Hockey: AUS Update

This past weekend ended up being pretty decisive in AUS men's hockey, as UNB clinched first place for the sixth year in a row and Moncton squelched Dalhousie's long shot to make the playoffs. With three games left in the regular season, second place (the other first-round playoff bye) is still up for grabs with Acadia, Saint Mary's and UPEI all very much in the hunt. While StFX and UdeM don't have a shot at second place, they could still finish in fourth place and earn home ice for the first round of the conference playoffs.

300th win comes quickly for MacDougall

With Saturday's victory over StFX, UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall accomplished the major milestone of his 300th win in just his 13th season behind the V-Reds bench. UNBHockeyFans.com crunches all the numbers (using Eric Drummie's RedSea database), but the facts that jump out at me are that UNB has won 71% of their non-exhibition games with MacDougall at the helm to get those 300 wins, that this is the sixth season in a row that UNB will win 20 or more games, and that CoachMac ranks fourth amongst active CIS coaches.

Friday was actually the bigger game, as the second place Huskies were visiting Fredericton in a "4-point game" that would make-or-break SMU's designs on first place. There was a huge crowd of 3470 (including just over 1200 invited local schoolkids and their teachers) and the teams delivered an exciting playoff-style game. After a careful first period, the game opened up in the second period as UNB scored twice, only to take two bad penalties in a row that SMU capitalized on to tie the game. The V-Reds had the edge in play in the third period and were finally rewarded when rookie Cam Critchlow knocked in the rebound of a wraparound attempt by captain Chris Culligan. MacDougall's son Taylor scored the last minute empty-netter to seal the victory.

Saturday's tilt against StFX was a different style of game. The X-Men seldom get in a track meet with the V-Reds, preferring to try to keep them to the outside, block shots like crazy, and attempt to take advantage of turnover opportunities with a strong transition game. UNB scored a shorty in the first period and StFX replied with a fine goal off a defensive turnover in the second period. The third period hero was V-Red Dion Campbell, who waited in the right circle with his stick cocked high for an agonizingly long time before finally getting the perfect pass from Antoine Houde-Caron to one-time into the net. Dan LaCosta was in nets for both wins on the weekend and now sports a 13-1-0 record and 2.05 GAA.


(Another achievement Saturday was that the CIS Blog's Robert Murray participated in his first live hockey broadcast as he helped out with the call on CHSR-FM).

Friday: SMU 2 @ UNB 4
Saturday: StFX 1 @ UNB 2

Weekend split isn't good enough for Acadia

The surprise of the weekend might have been the Axemen's loss at home to Moncton on Friday night. It was a tie game after the first period, but UdeM scored two goals in a span of less than a minute to take the lead and then held on and weathered the storm as Andre-Michel Guay made 45 saves in the game.

But that had nothing on Saturday's game, as Acadia fired 71 shots at STU's Jonathan Groenheyde. The Tommies netminder made 66 saves to keep the game from becoming a complete blowout, and was awarded first star honours in Acadia's rink. A classy move, especially since Axemen rookie forward Mike Cozzola netted a hat-trick in the match.

Friday: UdeM 3 @ Acadia 2
Saturday: STU 2 @ Acadia 5

Worse weekend for Huskies

After that loss to UNB, Saint Mary's had to travel to the Island and face red-hot UPEI on Saturday. The two teams traded goals until early in the third period, when the Panthers scored two in a row and were able to hold on for the win. Veteran Shawn O'Donnell had four goals in the loss. Lucas Bloodoff had two more power play goals on the weekend, and continues to lead the AUS scoring race with 20 goals (12 on the PP) and 35 points.

Friday: SMU 2 @ UNB 4
Saturday - SMU 5 @ UPEI 6
Be wary of the Panthers

Since the Christmas break, UPEI is the hottest team in the AUS. They've only lost once. To UNB. In overtime. Friday night the Panthers hammered the X-Men, out-shooting them 42-20 with Dana Fraser and Chris Desousa each netting a pair of goals and a pair of assists. Saturday night they were back to the more familiar territory of a one-goal game.

Friday - StFX 2 @ UPEI 8
Saturday - SMU 5 @ UPEI 6

Moncton on the rebound?

Les Aigles Bleus were 2-3-2 since the Break going into Friday's game and that huge win versus Acadia. Saturday they had the opportunity to squash 7th place Dal's dreams, but got caught up in a wild "last goal wins" game. Both teams scored three times on the power play, and by forcing overtime Moncton salvaged the one point they needed to eliminate the Tigers. UdeM d-man Samuel Groulx led les Aigles offence with 2 goals and 2 assists in the losing cause.

Friday: UdeM 3 @ Acadia 2
Saturday - UdeM 7 @ Dal 8  OT

Dal wins battle but loses war

Every game for the rest of the season was a must-win if the Tigers hoped to have a chance to catch Moncton for the final playoff spot. They managed to stay alive with a solid win over St. Thomas on Friday. On Saturday they threw everything at Moncton, but got let down by their goaltending. Both teams scored goals in bunches, but UdeM scored twice on only 4 shots in the first period and four times on 7 shots in the second period. Moncton scored late in the third to tie the game, but Dal wasn't able to get the winner until overtime, which was just too late. Shea Kewin had a hat-trick for the Tigers and Pierre-Alexandre Vandall scored the winner in OT on a power play.

Friday - STU 2 @ Dal 5
Saturday - UdeM 7 @ Dal 8  OT

Tommies finishing out the string

A lot of things haven't gone well this season for the short-staffed and banged up Tommies, but at least they've found a goaltender in Jonathan Groenheyde to be the core of their ongoing rebuild. STU only had 15 skaters for their weekend games, and were only down by one goal after two periods against Acadia. But in that third period they were completely gassed, as Acadia out-shot them 30-3 while Cozolla scored the insurance goal plus an empty netter.

Friday - STU 2 @ Dal 5
Saturday: STU 2 @ Acadia 5

This weekend

While UNB now has the luxury of  being able to rest players and go into cruise control mode if they choose, the next three teams have a lot to play for. UPEI has to win both their games against UdeM and UNB, and hope Acadia loses to StFX and SMU, as well count on the Huskies losing to Dal on Friday. Not too much to wish for, is it?  Life's a little simpler for Acadia and SMU -- they have to just keep winning to each control their destiny.  StFX's and UdeM's long shot at fourth place is complicated -- they have to win both their games and then hope for help from other teams.
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