Men's Hockey: AUS Update

I've kind of dragged out writing this post waiting for more details to firm up (such as rosters) for Friday's AUS Men's Hockey All-Star game, but enough with the procrastination.

We were short one game this past weekend, as high winds closed the Confederation Bridge and prevented UPEI from traveling to Moncton Friday night. I go back long enough to remember travelers being marooned on ferries back in the day (but fortunately not me), so not the worst outcome. Despite that, the Panthers managed to maintain their hold on third place in the AUS and #4 ranking in the CIS. Will Wednesday night be the night they hand UNB their first loss? Certainly the game of the week to watch.

V-Reds continue to win despite their power play power outage

UNB had an unusually hot power play going into the weekend (albeit based on a small sample size of four games), and the more expected reality returned; hot is usually followed by cold. The V-Reds were 0-for-the-weekend with the man advantage, and it prevented them from pulling away from St. Thomas on Friday (that and three crossbar clangs) and it allowed Moncton to get back into the game on Saturday. Fortunately for UNB the other half of the special teams, the penalty kill, was flawless on the weekend and snuffed out a potential momentum shift for their opponents. We all know the hockey maxim: special teams and goaltending win you championships. UNB has most of that working so far, but not all of it. If and when they do, look out. Oh, and we also learned that d-men Ben Shutron and Adrian Robertson are both equally able at stopping pucks that get by their acrobatic goalie.

Friday: UNB 3 @ STU 2
Saturday: UdeM 1 @ UNB 4

Axemen are 2nd hottest team in AUS, and in 2nd place. Coincidence?

While some may focus on UNB's 6-game win streak, Acadia has won their last four straight. On Wednesday the cruised to a win at home against Dalhousie, with Liam Heelis scoring two more goals (he now has 7 goals in 6 games) and rookie netminder Brandon Glover picked up his first shutout. Saturday was a closer affair, with Joe Gaynor scoring in the 1st and 2nd period before SMU put on a push in the 3rd period but only creating one goal.

Wednesday: Dal 0 @ Acadia 5
Friday: SMU 1 @ Acadia 2

Panthers make the most of their single game

UPEI scored two games worth of goals in their game against STU. The well rested Panthers, unable to get off the Island Friday night, made short work of the Tommies, scoring four times in the first period and five times in the second period. Rookie Cody McNaughton had a hat trick during that onslaught.

Friday: UPEI @ UdeM (postponed)
Saturday: STU 2 @ UPEI 10

Aigles Bleus didn't respond as well to night off

UdeM was supposed to be the fresher team Saturday night, but whether it was bus legs or rust the V-Reds jumped all over the them and were up 3-0 just past the 12 minute mark. UNB's roving goalie Charles Lavigne (what trapezoid?) gifted Eric Faille a goal very early in the second period, but was solid outside of that in frustrating any potential Moncton comeback.

Friday: UPEI @ UdeM (postponed)
Saturday: UdeM 1 @ UNB 4

Welcome back Huskies

In the log jam for fourth place you will also find Saint Mary's. They still don't have Anthony Peters back in nets, but Curtis Black didn't cost them the game against Acadia and got the win against StFX. The SMU power play has been shockingly bad all season (worst in the AUS) and didn't disappoint on the weekend. Fortunately for them, their equally bad penalty kill turned around, as least for the weekend.

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

What's up with the X-Men?

Consistency is not StFX's strong suit right now. It seems like every game they have good periods and no-so-good periods. After spotting Dal the first goal Friday night, they score three of their own before the end of the first period, and yet found themselves having to win in overtime. Saturday they scored first, but SMU replied with four unanswered goals. Sure it is early in the season, but you would want to sort this out before too long. Kudos should go to the X-Men for staging a Military Appreciation Game Saturday.

Friday: Dal 4 @ StFX 5 (OT)
Saturday: SMU 4 @ StFX 1

Tommies in the mix

I would have never imagined that the three "Saints" would all have the same number of wins, two, after three weekends of play. To STU's credit, they played a disciplined, structured game against UNB on Friday, and they made it a one goal game after the V-Reds scored two early goals. They also refused to play into the V-Reds hands and open it up in the third period. Rookie netminder Alex St. Arnaud made 45 saves to keep his team in the game, but still the V-Reds ran their win streak to 36 games in the Battle of the Hill. After that bruising, give-everything game, it was not a surprise that the short-staffed Tommies got beat on the Island by the rested Panthers who avoided their normal grudge match with Moncton. However, the margin of victory did look more like last season than this season.

Friday: UNB 3 @ STU 2
Saturday: STU 2 @ UPEI 10

One point is better than no points

While Dal has yet to win this season, they did recover from a blanking at the hands of the Axemen to force a comeback tie with the X-Men, before eventually losing in overtime. The Tigers offence has really suffered this season without the injured Pierre-Alexandre Vandall, and Ben Breault opting to turn pro.

Wednesday: Dal 0 @ Acadia 5 
Friday: Dal 4 @ StFX 5 (OT)

This week

It is a condensed schedule in conference play as each team gets one mid-week game before Friday's All-Star "break". Wednesday UNB is at UPEI to renew acquaintances for the first time since their chippy playoff series in late February. A much anticipated game that could be a sell-out. Moncton is at STU for the first time, and both are looking for a win after last weekend. StFX is at the Halifax Forum to play Dal on Wednesday, while Thursday SMU hosts Acadia at the Forum.

Friday is the previously mentioned all-star game, which will serve as the final audition for players hoping to make the AUS version of Team Canada for the World University Games in December. It won't be easy for the coaching trio of UNB's Gardiner MacDougall, StFX's Brad Peddle and UPEI's Forbie MacPherson to decide on their squad; AUS rules mandate that the eight teams must have at least one representative each on the 22 man squad, and no team shall have more than four reps.

Saturday morning everyone will check out of the hotel, and those who make the cut will check into a different hotel together and begin two days of practices and team-building on the Olympic ice surface at the Grant*Harvey Centre. It should be fun for fans, but it is competing for attention with UNB's hosting of the CIS men's soccer championship from Thursday through Sunday. Not to mention many students and Frederictonians will be bailing out of town for the long weekend.
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