Men's Hockey: What we learned in the first week in the AUS

So what did we learn from the first week of AUS men's hockey conference play?

Plus ça change ...

Even with only a dozen players back from their championship team UNB is still pretty good. Gardiner MacDougall is arguably the best recruiter in the CIS, and his new recruits from across the country were all front and centre this weekend. But most of the talk after the games was the play of two sometimes under-rated veterans: workhorse Antoine Houde-Caron who had success driving the net to spark the the V-Reds offence on Friday and captain Chris Culligan on Saturday, minus his two regular wingers, who put the team on his back in the second period in order to erase a two-goal deficit and skate to a hard-fought victory against a bitter rival.

Friday - StFX 2 @ UNB 5
Saturday - SMU 3 @ UNB 5

Panthers on the prowl

UPEI looked very good in the preseason, and were the only road team to win both their games this past weekend. No one should underestimate this team, who may have flown under the national radar due to being eliminated in the playoffs by UNB the last two years running. While beating Dal is no surprise, taking a three-goal lead in the first ten minutes against Acadia is.

Friday - UPEI 5 @ Dal 1
Sunday - UPEI 4 @ Acadia 2

Moncton "Sedin Twins" delivering as advertised

What an opening weekend for UdeM rookie twins Alex and Allain Saulnier. The Moncton natives were co-captains of their hometown Wildcats last season, and were renowned for their chemistry, particularly on the power play. Alex scored twice on Friday, assisted both times by Allain. On Saturday Alex scored without his brother's assistance, but Allain did assist on two other goals, including one for another Alex, Emond.

Friday: SMU 1 @ UdeM 5
Saturday StFX 3 @ UdeM 4

Axemen still need more finish around the net

Acadia led the AUS in shots on goal last year, although the shot count does seem to get inflated at Acadia Arena. 59 shots on Friday only yielded three goals. On Sunday afternoon they converted two goals out of 52 shots on net. On the other hand rookie Axemen netminder Brandon Glover might be happy if he never gets another Sunday afternoon start; he gave up four goals on 11 shots before getting the hook early in the second period.

Friday: STU 1 @ Acadia 3
Sunday: UPEI 4 @ Acadia 2

Hope in Tommies Land

As long as Jon Groenheyde can stand on his head, and the team can manufacture some scoring, STU has a chance to win. The Tommies 2nd-year goalie made 43 saves in the first 40 minutes as St. Thomas nursed a one-goal lead into the third period on Friday. Saturday's game was less one-sided and had a better outcome, as the two teams traded goals all night and the hard-working Tommies delivered the first win for their new coach Pat Powers.

Friday: STU 1 @ Acadia 4
Saturday: STU 4 @ Dal 3

Tigers drop must-win game

Like for STU, wins are probably going to be a challenge for Dal against the six teams who finished ahead of them last year. And the year before. And the year before that. You get the idea. So while one might shrug off getting clawed by the Panthers (I know, terrible pun), they have to win those games against the Tommies if they have any hope of making the playoffs.

Friday: UPEI 5 @ Dal 1
Saturday: STU 4 @ Dal 3

The X-Men are better than their record

Hard to believe that StFX didn't earn a point on the weekend. Friday they played a close tight-checking game with UNB that didn't get away from them until the last five minutes or so when X had to open up their play to try to tie the game. On Saturday they spotted les Aigles Bleus a three-goal lead before battling back and coming up one goal short.

Friday: StFX 2 @ UNB 5
Saturday StFX 3 @ UdeM 4

So how long is this Huskies slump going to last?

If anyone needs a pity party, it is SMU. Seriously. They were winless in the preseason. Assistant coach Tom Lee is battling cancer, again, and so far the bone-marrow transplants seem to be taking, fortunately. Head coach Trevor Stienburg is stepping back temporarily for health reasons. If that is not enough to stress out interim head coach Tyler Naugler, Huskies goaltender Anthony Peters (he of 26 starts last season) wasn't available this weekend due to injury so backup Curtis Black was thrown into the fire in New Brunswick.

Friday:  SMU 1 @ UdeM 5
Saturday: SMU 3 @ UNB 5

Next weekend

The same dance partners swap venues. UNB and UdeM are at SMU and StFX while Acadia and Dal are at STU and UPEI.

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