Men's Hockey: 2013-14 AUS Men's Hockey Preview

2013 CIS University Cup / Josh Schaefer Photography
AUS men's hockey kicks off for real tomorrow, while the rest of the CIS has been at it for a couple of weeks now. Saving the best for last! (Getting my trolling of OUA and Canada West supporters out of the way early). The truth is that AUS hockey is considered a pretty big deal in most local media markets out here in the Maritimes, plus the fact that the conference has the best fan attendance in the CIS. And their men's hockey teams do pretty well on the national stage.

The UNB Varsity Reds won their 13th AUS championship last season, followed by their 5th CIS University Cup (and 4th in the last 7 years) by the lowest score ever (2-0) in the national championship game against conference rival Saint Mary's. A good showing for the AUS in Saskatoon to say the least.

Only one team from the AUS gets a ticket to the 2014 PotashCorp University Cup, putting a lot more emphasis on playoffs this year. The conference schedule makers have responded this season, making both the semi-final rounds and finals best-of-five series.

So who's it gonna be? Hard to argue against the reigning champ Varsity Reds, but they've had another large turnover in players and of course anything can and does happen in AUS playoffs. Not to mention that the other teams have ganged up and trimmed UNB's legendary depth with the new 22-skater roster cap. So maybe they're beatable this season. Saint Mary's, Acadia, and StFX are all legitimate challengers for the AUS crown, and UPEI and Moncton could be in the mix as well (and perhaps not coincidentally the first four names are all bidding to host the 2015 and 2016 University Cups). [Update: The Halifax Metro is reporting that Friday the joint SMU/StFX bid will announced as the successful bidders.]

Dalhousie will need someone ahead of them to stumble for them to make the the playoffs. STU's rebuild program got interrupted when coach Troy Ryan left the team in the off-season, so it would be really surprising if they can climb out of the AUS basement.

A new wrinkle this year is that it is the AUS' turn to represent the CIS in men's hockey at the FISU World University Games in December in Trentino, Italy. UNB's Gardiner MacDougall plus UPEI's Forbie MacPherson and StFX's Brad Peddle will be the coaching brain trust. They have not yet made the cuts for the team roster, so there will be a lot of incentive for players to try to have a career first-half and force their way into a Team Canada jersey.

The AUS has stepped up their marketing and promotions this year, and hockey is getting more attention. Today, Thursday, the AUS has for the first time posted detailed team profiles for each of the teams on their website. Glenn MacDonald of the Halifax Herald has his annual preview of the four Nova Scotia teams in today's paper. The bible of AUS previews is still Bruce Hallihan's annual opus, which will be in tomorrow's (Friday's) Daily Gleaner in Fredericton.  And below, you'll find my much less detailed contribution (but it does have fearless picks!).


  • 2012-13 Regular season record: 17-9-2 (3rd place in AUS)
  • Playoffs: 3-4-0. Got by Moncton is first round and lost to SMU in 2nd round.
  • Power play: 18.4% (5th in AUS)
  • Penalty kill: 87.4% (1st in AUS)
  • Last Season: Good first half marred by three-game losing streak to start second half, and then .500 hockey the rest of the way. Hot goaltending almost undid them in the Moncton series (they outshot UdeM 68-39 in game 3 double-OT win) and did bite them in the Saint Mary's series.
  • Key Departures: F Andrew Clark, F Jonathan Laberge
  • Key Arrivals: F Michael Clark, F Scott Trask, F Taylor Makin, F/D Tyler Ferry, D Chris Buonomo, D Geoffrey Schemitsch, G Brandon Glover.
  • Coach: Darren Burns (13th season)
  • Key Player: Two-time All-Canadian defenceman Chris Owens is Acadia's version of Erik Karlsson.
  • 2013-14 Outlook: While Clark and Laberge are big losses, the Axemen do return 18 players, including AUS rookie of the year Mike Cazzola. This team should have learned a lot from their comparative second half slump last year that cost them a first-round bye. The only AUS team to play on Olympic-sized ice, they could maybe exploit their home rink advantage a bit more. If they can have a little more finish around the net (they led the AUS in shots on goal last year) this year and continue to get solid goaltending they are going to be dangerous.
  • Projected conference finish: 2nd place.


  • 2012-13 Regular season record: 8-17-3 (7th place in AUS)
  • Playoffs: N/A.
  • Power play: 16.7% (7th in AUS)
  • Penalty kill: 76.1% (8th in AUS)
  • Last Season: The Tigers had another tough season. They had the largest roster in the AUS as Coach Donnelly tried different combinations of players to try to find some scoring. Bobby Nadeau had some good games in nets, but was only healthy enough to make 9 starts, while Wendell Vye struggled.
  • Key Departures: F Ben Breault, F Shea Kewin, F Daniel Bartek, D Jacob Johnston
  • Key Arrivals: D Wes Herrett, D Luke Madill, D Tyler Hart, F Andrew Rieder, F Fabian Walsh, F Alex Cote, F Mitch O'Neill
  • Coach: Chris Donnelly (3rd season).
  • Key Player: Pierre-Alexandre Vandall will be expected to continue to spark the offence.
  • 2013-14 Outlook: The still-not-released CIS report continues to hang over the Tigers like the Sword of Damocles, except no one is talking about it. While Dal may be better this year, and have had a decent preseason, they still don't look ready yet to make the playoffs unless their goaltenders can steal them a ton of games. Competition can be cruel in the AUS.
  • Projected conference finish: 7th place.

  • 2012-13 Regular season record: 12-10-6 (6th place in AUS)
  • Playoffs: 1-1-1. Pushed Acadia to double-OT in game 3 of 1st round.
  • Power play: 16.9% (6th in AUS)
  • Penalty kill: 83.9% (2nd in AUS)
  • Last Season: After a good start, including a rare win at UNB, les Aigles Bleus cooled off in mid-November and had a 7-game losing streak that extended into the first week of January. Overtime was not kind to Moncton last year; they lost 6 of 7 that went past regulation time. Despite being badly outshot in their playoff series, Moncton did put a scare into Acadia, taking them to the second overtime in Game 3.
  • Departures: F Christian Gaudet, D Mathieu Boulduc, F Marc-André Côté, F Francis Rochon, G Andre-Michel Guay
  • Arrivals: F Alex Saulnier, F Allain Saulnier, D Pierre Durepros, F Steve Lebel, F Danny Chiasson
  • Coach: Serge Bourgeois (5th season).
  • Key Player: Éric Faille really stepped up last year and became the team's offensive leader.
  • 2013-14 Outlook: 17 players are back. The Moncton power play should be lethal with the Saulnier twins, and the other new forwards should help them improve their overall goal scoring as well. UdeM look to be better, but good enough to pass the teams that finished ahead of them last year? It will be interesting to see where this team finishes.
  • Projected conference finish: 6th place.
  • 2012-13 Regular season record: 18-7-3 (2nd place in AUS)
  • Playoffs: 6-2-3. Beat Acadia in four games in semis and lost to UNB 2-0 in game 3 of AUS finals. Lost to Alberta 4-3 in OT at UCup and beat Waterloo 5-1. Lost 2-0 to UNB in championship game.
  • Power play: 23.1% (1st in AUS)
  • Penalty kill: 82.1% (5th in AUS)
  • Last Season: The Huskies had their typical slow start last season before rounding into fine form, including a 7-game winning streak that bridged across the Christmas break. After earning the first-round bye, they dropped the first game to Acadia before winning three straight (with Peters in nets twice named player of the game). They lost first game of AUS finals 1-0 in double-OT vs. UNB, and rebounded with solid 5-2 win at home, only to be shutout by the V-Reds in game 3 in Fredericton. The wildcard entry at the University Cup in Saskatoon, they lost in OT to Alberta while being outshot 2 to 1. Once again they rebounded, beating Waterloo 5-1, and thanks to the tie-breaking formula, advanced out of their pool to play UNB for the Cup. Unfortunately they got shutout by the V-Reds 2-0 for the second time in a row.
  • Key Departures: F Shawn O'Donnell, D Justin Wallingford, D Paddy O'Keefe
  • Arrivals: D Stephen Gillard, D Alex Cord, D Cam Wind, F Steven Shipley, F Francis Menard, F Steven Beyers, F Mitch Maynard, G Anthony Terenzio, 
  • Coach: Trevor Steinburg (17th season) *.
  • Key Player: All-star goaltender Anthony Peters started 26 regular season games last season and was often the difference maker for SMU, especially in the AUS playoffs and at the University Cup.
  • 2013-14 Outlook: News broke this week that Steinburg would be stepping back from the team and taking a sudden and temporary break from coaching for health reasons, with longtime assistant coach Tyler Naugler taking over behind the bench. This comes on the heels of a winless preseason. But this still a veteran squad that was in a one-goal game with UNB until late in the championship final when they pulled Peters. CIS player of the year Lucas Bloodoff arrived at the University Cup with a broken hand and was pretty much ineffective. He's healthy now, as is Michael Stickland who missed most of last season. While it might be natural to pencil them in at second place again, not having CIS coach of the year Stienburg around for awhile might cost them a spot.
  • Projected conference finish: 3rd place.
  • 2012-13 Regular season record: 3-24-1 (Last place in AUS)
  • Playoffs: N/A.
  • Power play: 6.5% (8th in AUS)
  • Penalty kill: 78.6% (7th in AUS)
  • Last Season: The Tommies suffered a horrendous start (losing 12 in a row) and never recovered in a rebuild year. Their power play went missing, as did most of their offence. The only real bright spot was the play of rookie goaltender Jonathan Groenheyde, who weathered more rubber than any goalie in the AUS.
  • Key Departures: F Matt Eagles, F Alex Labonte
  • Key Arrivals: F Brendan Childerley, F Derek Froats, D Jordan Moore
  • Coach: Pat Powers (1st season).
  • Key Player: If they win games, it will because Jon Groenheyde saved the day in nets.
  • 2013-14 Outlook: The departure of coach Troy Ryan caught everyone off guard, and the late hiring of Pat Powers didn't leave him much recruiting time. Powers was head coach of Western last year while Clarke Singer was on sabbatical and did a good job, but he's inheriting a significantly different roster with the Tommies. Powers will make the Tommies a difficult team to play against, but they still look to be offensively challenged. It will probably be a long season for the STU faithful.
  • Projected conference finish: 8th place.
  • 2012-13 Regular season record: 16-10-2 (4th place in AUS)
  • Playoffs: 0-1-1. Lost two 1-goal games vs. UPEI in 1st round (2nd in double-OT).
  • Power play: 22.1% (2nd in AUS)
  • Penalty kill: 83.1% (3rd in AUS)
  • Last Season: While StFX wasn't the most consistent team last year, they had improved on the year before, and did finish just two points out of third place and on a three-game winning streak. However they lost two close games in the first round of the playoffs to UPEI and suddenly their season was over.
  • Departures: D Nick Pageau, G Joey Perricone
  • Arrivals: F Robert Slaney, F Blake Gal, D Nathan Chiarlitti
  • Coach: Brad Peddle (8th season).
  • Key Player: Forward Jason Bast was the CIS Rookie of the Year in 2010-11 and their go-to forward last season.
  • 2013-14 Outlook: StFX was fairly young last year, but they've returned 21 players this season and probably lost the least of any of the teams. Gal has been scoring in the preseason and former Leafs farmhand Slaney red-shirted last season and will be an impact player this year. X are a gritty bunch with good special teams and opportunistic scoring, and they never seem to worry about being out-shot in games with Drew Owsley in nets. A very dangerous opponent who could finish as high as second place.
  • Projected conference finish: 5th place.
  • 2012-13 Regular season record: 23-5-0 (1st place in AUS)
  • Playoffs: 8-2-0. Took four games to knock off UPEI in semis and a deciding 3rd game in finals vs. SMU. At Nationals beat host Saskatchewan 3-1, UQTR 8-3 and then SMU 2-0 in UCup final.
  • Power play: 18.8% (4th in AUS)
  • Penalty kill: 81.9% (6th in AUS)
  • Last Season: Only Acadia and SMU were .500 against the V-Reds in the regular season; their only other loss was to Moncton. In nets, Dan LaCosta was 15-1 with a .938 save percentage and 1.92 GAA and not named an All-Star; he then shut-out the Huskies 2-0 in both the AUS and CIS championship games. Other than a propensity to get into penalty trouble, and only average special teams, there were very few flaws with the deep UNB team last year.
  • Key Departures: F Colby Pridham, F Bryce Swan, F Matt Fillier, D Daine Todd, D Josh Kidd, D Ben Wright, G Travis Fullerton, G Dan LaCosta
  • Arrivals: F JP Labardo, F Mike Thomas, F Dylan Willick, F Cam Maclise, F Shea Kewin, D Matt Petgrave, D Jordan Murray, D Keevin Cutting, G Joel Vinneau
  • Coach: Gardiner MacDougall (14th season).
  • Key Player: Chris Culligan is the best, and perhaps most unselfish, playmaker in the AUS. If he took more shots on goal ...?
  • 2013-14 Outlook: Only a dozen players are back from last year's championship team. Under-rated Travis Fullerton won't be in the UNB nets for the first time in five years, and LaCosta is gone as well. Pridham and Todd will be particularly missed. But MacDougall added a number of new players last season and the team hardly missed a beat, so you might assume similar results this year. There will be a lot of pressure on former STU goalie Charlie Lavigne (who in effect red-shirted last season) to match his predecessor's success as the new number one, but at least he won't be required to steal games as was needed with the Tommies. The new defencemen have all got a lot of minutes in the preseason, and had a few adventures in their own zone, while there has been less pressure, so far, on the new forwards. D-man Matt Petgrave may have the biggest upside of the new recruiting class.
  • Projected conference finish: 1st place.
  • 2012-13 Regular season record: 15-11-2 (5th place in AUS)
  • Playoffs: 3-3-0. Squeezed by StFX in 1st round but could only manage one win against UNB in semis.
  • Power play: 19.0% (3rd in AUS)
  • Penalty kill: 82.9% (4th in AUS)
  • Last Season: The Panthers has a poor first half and were much, much improved in the second half, reeling off a 5-game win streak after the Christmas break. Over the last two seasons they have become a much quicker team, which still maintaining their Island hockey edginess. After getting by StFX in the first round of the playoffs, they then had the misfortune to run into UNB for the second year in a row, and it didn't go well.
  • Key Departures: F Jordan Knox, F Mike MacIsaac, D Dylan Quaile, D Matt Boyle
  • Key Arrivals: F Cody McNaughton, D Brock Beukeboom, D Derek Ryckman, D Casey Babineau
  • Coach: Forbes “Forbie” MacPherson (5th season).
  • Key Player: Chris Desousa is their top forward and key man in all situations.
  • 2013-14 Outlook: UPEI is returning 18 players, all with a burning desire to get past UNB. They have solid goaltending, led by 1st Team All-Star Wayne Savage. Their new defenceman have all looked good in the preseason, where UPEI went 5-1. The Panthers are hard to play against and very good on transition and should only be better this season. Finishing in second place is not out of reach.
  • Projected conference finish: 4th place.
Next PostNewer Post Previous PostOlder Post Home


Post a Comment