Men's Hockey: AUS Update - Acadia slides into third

In weekend play in AUS men's hockey the upcoming playoff picture got a little clearer. Saint Mary's locked up second place to capture the other first-round playoff bye alongside UNB. Acadia will finish third, and becomes the team no one wants to meet in the first round. Fourth place, currently held by StFX, will be decided on the last night of the regular season as a UPEI win and X-Men loss would flip fourth and fifth place (Panthers holds first tie-breaker between the two teams). Moncton, in a tie with UPEI for fifth place in the standings, (but not really, as the Panthers also hold the edge in this tie-breaker) needs to win and hope the Panthers lose in order to move into fifth place. The AUS schedule is not helpful, as none of the teams close in the standings are playing each other next Friday, so all of them will be scoreboard watching.

Off the ice, the AUS decided this week at their winter meetings that the new roster cap for next season will be raised from the originally announced 21, to 22 skaters, and unlimited goalies.That of course is just four more skaters than the usual 18 who are allowed to dress for each game. Normal injury attrition during the season means that the AUS could be putting themselves at quite a manpower disadvantage when they play teams from the other two CIS conferences at the University Cup.

V-Reds cruising to bye break

UNB had a relatively easy go against cross-campus rival St. Thomas on Friday night. While the short-staffed Tommies kept the V-Reds off the scoreboard in the first period, UNB kept rolling their lines and wore down STU and the goals eventually came. The Tommies only cracked double-digits in shots on goal in the last minute, when a beauty goal by captain Felix Poulin spoiled Travis Fullerton's shutout bid.

Back in their own rink on Saturday, it was a much more intense game against UPEI. The V-Reds saw their two goal lead evaporate in the second period when they got into penalty trouble (as has happened so often this season) and the Panthers took advantage. Third periods are a source of pride for UNB, and it went pretty much by the book as the V-Reds put the game away with three goals, including a shorty. However, despite the pink-tinged ice, pink UNB socks and other feel-good events surrounding Pink in the Rink Night, near the four minute mark emotions boiled over when Antoine Houde-Caron (who already had two goals in the game) took exception to a faceoff slash from UPEI provocateur par excellence Mike McIsaac and chased him down and jumped him at the blue line. Although neither participant dropped their gloves they both rightfully earned fighting majors and were ejected and Houde-Caron will pick up an extra game suspension for being named the instigator.

Friday - UNB 5 @ STU 1
Saturday - UPEI 2 @ UNB 5

Huskies get hot at the right time

Saint Mary's ended their three-game losing streak Friday night as they cruised to a 5-2 win over Dalhousie, their co-tenant at the Halifax Forum. Saturday was the most anticipated game of the weekend as the Huskies traveled down Highway 101 to decide second place against the Axemen. There was no scoring until  Matt Tipoff scored just over four minutes into the second period, and the Huskies added two more unanswered goals as Anthony Peters earned his conference-leading fifth shutout of the season in the big SMU win. With one game left in the season power forward Lucas Bloodoff has a 7-point lead on Acadia's Andrew Clark in the AUS points race, and his 20 goals have him five ahead of UNB's Nick MacNeil and the injured Tyler Carroll. Huskies defenceman Michael D'Orazio leads all d-men with 30 points, and he's tied for second overall in points with Clark and UNB's Colby Pridham and Chris Culligan.

Friday - Dal 2 @ SMU 6
Saturday - SMU 3 @ Acadia 3

Acadia slides into third

The Axemen were in first place in the AUS standings at the Christmas break, but their not so great second half (4-6-1) has dropped them into third place and missing out on a first-round playoff bye. Friday night they outshot StFX by more than a 2-to-1 margin in the game, but still lost. The X-Men had a two goal lead thanks to power plays and Acadia answered with two of their own on the PP in the second period to tie the game. However StFX rookie Brad Cuzner scored the only goal in the third period as the X-Men stole the win.  Saturday was a must-win for Acadia for any hope at finishing in second place, but they couldn't find the back of the net against the Huskies.

Friday - Acadia 2 @ StFX 3
Saturday - SMU 3 @ Acadia 3

X-Men also getting hot at the right time

After getting out-shot badly and winning Friday, the X-Men pulled off a similar trick Saturday night against the Tigers, winning 2-1 and moving past UPEI for fourth place.

Friday - Acadia 2 @ StFX 3
Saturday - StFX 2 @ Dal 1

Panthers pick poor time to cool off

The hottest team since Christmas came to a screeching halt Friday, when they lost 5-0 to arch-rival Moncton. The shots were even in the game, but UdeM was up 3-0 before the midway point of the third period, and then added two shorthanded goals to add insult to injury. The next night in Fredericton they weren't able to bounce back against UNB, who didn't ease up much despite already having clinched first place last weekend.

Friday - UPEI 0 @ UdeM 5
Saturday - UPEI 2 @ UNB 5 

UdeM still looking to move up standings

That blanking of UPEI Friday night was huge for Moncton, as it was the first time they've beat them all season. After  les Aigles Bleus cruised to a win over STU on Sunday afternoon, both UdeM and UPEI now have 30 points, but the Panthers own the head-to-head tiebreaker. Moncton needs to beat UNB next Friday (a tall order) and UPEI had to lose to STU (an unlikely outcome) in order to finish in fifth place and avoid Acadia in the first round of the playoffs.

Friday - UPEI 0 @ UdeM 5
Sunday - UdeM 6 @ STU 2 *

Dal playing out the string

Give the Tigers credit. After being beat soundly by the Huskies, Dal bounced back and played well enough to probably deserve a win the next night against StFX. The ramifications of the CIS investigation are still hanging over the heads of the Dal men's team, with no firm ETA on when the CIS will announce their results and any repercussions (my guess is sometime after Dal's last game Friday and my hunch, if the facts match the rumours, is that it will cost them a hefty fine and perhaps a reduction of their team AFA cap, which in unprecedented to my knowledge).

Friday - Dal 2 @ SMU 6
Saturday - StFX 2 @ Dal 1

Tommies going out on their shields

STU once again was only able to dress 15 skates against UNB on Friday night, and as is the case for all teams this time of year, the guys on the ice weren't all 100%. Rookie goaltender Jonathan Groenheyde continues to do his best to keep his team in games, but the rebuilding Tommies just don't have the horses to keep up with the teams ahead of them.

Saturday on Senior's Night they had one more skater dressed, as former captain Matt Eagles (wearing the #22 of friend and ex-Tommie Mike Reich) surprisingly took the opening faceoff and won it, leading to the first STU goal. Eagles, who had his hockey career ended last season due to post concussion symptoms, immediately skated to the bench for a line change after winning the draw and spent the rest of his last game in uniform sitting with his teammates. Moncton took over the lead in the second period and pulled away in the third period for the comfortable win.

Friday - UNB 5 @ STU 1
Sunday - UdeM 6 @ STU 2 *

One game left for each team

Friday night UNB host UdeM, SMU hosts StFX, Dal is at Acadia and STU is at UPEI. As discussed at the top of this post, Moncton, the X-Men, and the Panthers all need wins to keep or improve their playoff position. 


* Correction: In my haste to post I originally had the UdeM-STU game listed as a Saturday game, but the match was actually played on Sunday afternoon.
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