Yes, I know it's prime CIS football and soccer season, but the AUS men's hockey teams started their preseason play this week and fans got their first looks at the new recruits.
But first, off the ice, we now have not one, but three separate AUS bids to host the 2015 & 2016 CIS University Cup tournaments. StFX and Saint Mary's earlier in the summer had announced a novel joint bid that would see all games played at the Halifax Metro Centre (a two hour drive from Antigonish) with the X-Men acting as the host team one year and the Huskies as host the other year. Then this week came news that Acadia was also bidding for the same years and they were also looking to host the games at the Metro Centre (an hour from Wolfville). So a win-win for Halifax. Then on Friday came the surprise news that UPEI was also putting in a bid to host the tournament at the rechristened Charlottetown civic centre - EastLink Centre. You get the feeling that the AUS really, really want to host the University Cup ... or four teams are looking for a route to the championship that doesn't involve getting past UNB on the ice.
Speaking of the anti-UNB crowd, this season will indeed see the implementation of the new roster caps in the AUS: 22 skaters and unlimited goalies. There is no injured reserve, so if I player suffers a season-ending injury, you're sh!t out of luck. The rosters have to be locked down opening night, so there may be several players, enrolled in classes and playing exhibition games now, who may not find out until October 18 whether they will make the official season roster or not. You also have to expect that many, or all, of the AUS coaches may want to keep one or two spots open for Christmas recruits as well - for those players who discover riding the buses, and benches, in the ECHL may not be worth forfeiting their Major Junior education packages and that they want to play in the AUS after all.
Oh, and that ongoing CIS investigation of the Dalhousie men's hockey program? Surprisingly, still not finished, despite the rumours of player payments outside of the acceptable Athletic Financial Awards have been pretty widely reported in Halifax. You would have thought the CIS would have dropped their report on some Friday in July or August, but now it looks like it will have to be released during this season, if ever.
Turning to the games on-ice, Monday saw UNB travel to the Acadian Peninsula t the village of Cocagne to play Moncton. Les Aigles Bleus scored first, but the V-Reds took advantage of their special teams to notch two on the power play and a shorty for the 4-2 win.
On Thursday UPEI was in Fredericton to play the new-look Tommies. While they didn't win, new head coach Pat Powers had STU playing a structured system that kept them in the game against the speedy Panthers, despite the 2-1 loss. After the win UPEI hopped back on their bus and travelled overnight to Trois-Rivières, QC to play in the Patriotes Tournament.
Moncton also bused to Trois-Rivières, and they played Ottawa in the tourney's afternoon game Friday, losing 4-3 to the Gee-Gees. Friday evening UPEI took on host UQTR and managed a 4-3 OT win with Chris Desousa notching the winner, his second of the game. Saturday Ottawa was the winner again, 3-1 over UPEI, while in the evening match overtime was cruel to les Patriotes again as defenceman Simon Jodoin knocked in his own rebound for the 3-2 UdeM win.
In Fredericton UNB was hosting the OUA's Windsor Lancers in their first-ever visit to the Aitken University Centre for the V-Reds annual Fall Classic invitational. Friday night was a 5-0 UNB win, but the game was close for two periods with the score 2-0 going into the third period. Saturday saw the Lancers exhibit more jump, scoring early in both the first and second periods and chasing rookie UNB goalie Joel Vienneau before carrying a lead into the third. Despite extending their lead to 4-2, Windsor was not able to deal with the UNB push-back, and the V-Reds went on to score three unanswered goals for a 5-4 come from behind win. Thomas Nesbitt made a strong case to stay on the right wing of UNB's first line with University Cup MVP Tyler Carroll and team captain Chris Culligan, scoring twice and adding four assists in the two games.
There was hockey in Nova Scotia as well, as the four Bluenose teams congregated for the weekend in Wolfville for the Don Wells Memorial tournament. In a bit of surprise Saturday afternoon, Dalhousie beat their Halifax Forum roommates Saint Mary's 5-3. In the evening game the host Axemen lost 3-1 to the X-Men. On Sunday afternoon in the tourney championship final Dal's Andrew Wigginton scored his third goal of the game in overtime for the 4-3 win over StFX. The evening consolation final ended in a rare 4-4 overtime tie between SMU and Acadia, as the decision was made to halt the game after first-year Huskies forward Cameron Wind was taken off in a stretcher after an incident on the ice.
This week sees UNB travel to Maine for a Wednesday afternoon game against the Portland Pirates, the AHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes, at their practice facility in Saco. The V-Reds are back home Friday night to host the Carleton Ravens. Also on Friday, the Brock Badgers will be playing Saint Mary's, STU is playing StFX in New Glasgow, NS and Dal is at UPEI.
On Saturday Carleton stays in Fredericton to play the Tommies while Moncton will be in Berwick, NS to play Acadia.
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