Men's Hockey: AUS Weekly Update - V-Reds no longer perfect

The University of New Brunswick's men's hockey team is no longer "perfect". After seven straight wins the V-Reds lost a game Friday night in the three-man shootout phase, after a scoreless ten-minute overtime period. UNB is still in first place, just, with the surging Acadia Axemen - now the hottest team in the AUS conference - hard on their heels. The other big news this weekend was the number of rookie goalies picking up their first wins.



Imperfect V-Reds still a work in progress

Now that their winning streak has ended maybe we can look at UNB in a clearer light: this is not last season's Varsity Reds. Thirteen players from last year are no longer with the program; ten of whom dressed in that 2-0 University Cup win over Saint Mary's back in March. Ten. That's a lot of veteran experience in key roles to replace. There are ten new, or new-to-UNB, players on the roster this year.

As well, UCup MVP Tyler Carroll has yet to play on captain Chris Culligan's left wing in a conference game this season, which has forced the pass-first playmaker to put more of his shots on net for goals. Culligan has 8 goals and 3 assists so far this season; last year he had 4 goals and 27 assists. Defensively, UNB has been working in three new d-men with pretty heavy minutes and the odd gaffe. In nets, STU transfer Charles Lavigne has certainly delivered as expected (well in this and a few other corners) while newcomer Joel Vienneau just had his first start, and win, against Dalhousie.

This year's version of the V-Reds has its growing pains. Like the mental breakdowns in both the first and last minute of the second period versus Acadia that cost them two goals. Or a hot and cold power play (well actually, they experienced that often last season as well). Taking penalties while shorthanded (okay, that too happened last year). Like not burying a Tigers team that you were leading 4-0 at one point, while consistently shooting wide of the net.

Head coach Gardiner MacDougall likes to talk about winning as a process - getting better every game, shift by shift, and all that. In the past the assembled media would usually just smile as that old bromide was trooped out, but this season it really does look to be mostly true, well certainly the work in progress bit.

Friday - Acadia 4 @ UNB 3 (OTS)
Saturday - Dal 3 @ UNB 4

Axemen are for real

It took game 8 of their seasons before UNB and Acadia finally met. It was a very entertaining, wide open game to watch that probably gave ulcers to the coaches involved. Wide open, but not a ton of shots as both teams did a pretty good job of last-second shutdowns of shooting lanes and preventing second shots. Liam Heelis, Mike Cazzola and Brett Thompson put on a pretty good clinic on how they are the most dangerous line in the AUS this season, and they certainly make the most of opponents' miscues. Acadia never led against UNB, but kept managing to tie the game up, survived the overtime (thanks in large part to Geoff Schemitsch blocking shot after shot on the PK) and then out-dueled UNB in the shootout. By the way, that was Acadia's first road win against UNB since the playoffs in 2006, so they were probably overdue.

Saturday was different in that the Axemen took the first lead, and then kept retaking it in outlasting Moncton. This is proving to be a very dangerous team in close games (and good thing I had the foresight luck to pick them for second place!).

Friday - Acadia 4 @ UNB 3 (OTS)
Saturday - Acadia 5 @ UdeM 4

Surprise, StFX much better at home

The X-Men have won four games at home, but only once on the road. That's why they now find themselves just ahead of the pack in third place, but falling behind UNB and Acadia. Friday they mounted a soul-crushing two-goal comeback against St. Thomas, while on Saturday they had a comfortable win against UPEI while out-shooting them 43-29. Jarrad Struthers had a big weekend for X, scoring a pair of goals on Friday and adding another brace on Saturday.

Friday - STU 5 @ StFX 6 (OT)
Saturday - UPEI 1 @ StFX 4

While UPEI had a tough road weekend

The Panthers got off to a good start against the Huskies, and the perhaps understandably lost their focus when Jordan Mayer was hit hard by SMU captain Lucas Bloodoff at 15:36, and after a long delay left the game on a stretcher. Bloodoff was assessed five and a game for boarding (similar to what happened to him twice at Nationals) and one wonders if there will be supplemental discipline (especially as UPEI was on the wrong side of a long Mason Wilgosh suspension last season). The good news was that Mayer was released from hospital the next day and by all reports is fine. [UPDATE: Well, apparently not completely fine. He does have a head injury and will miss Wednesday's game.]

SMU scored four times in the second period while UPEI had no answer. The next night the Panthers were in tough against StFX, who fired 24 shots at Wayne Savage in the first period alone as they jumped all over them after their exciting win the night before.

Friday - UPEI 2 @ SMU 4
Saturday - UPEI 1 @ StFX 4

Good and and not so good weekend for Aigles Bleus

Friday Moncton were all over visiting Dal. In a great team effort seven different goal scorers found the back of the net and rookie Jonathan Connelly earned a shut-out in his first start for les Aigles Bleus. Saturday was a different animal, as the red-hot Axemen were never behind and their rookie goalie Brandon Glover picked up his second win in his second start.

Friday - Dal 0 @ UdeM 7
Saturday - Acadia 5 @ UdeM 4

Huskies starting to round into form?

We've all been wondering when the SMU offence was finally going to come uncorked. Friday they had those four unanswered goals against UPEI. Saturday they exploded against the hapless Tommies, including 4 goals on the power play. SMU still has the worst PP percentage in the AUS, but at least they are now in double digits (10%). All-Star goalie Anthony Peters is still not back in the Huskies line-up, but not to worry as rookie Anthony Terenzio picked up his first two wins on the weekend. Rookie SMU defenceman Stephen Gillard had a goal in each period against STU for his first hat trick.

Friday - UPEI 2 @ SMU 4
Saturday - SMU 1 @ SMU 9

St. Thomas loses tough one

STU had a two-goal lead on StFX, in Antigonish, in the final minutes of Friday's game. However, hopes were dashed when X's R.D. Chisholm scored with one second left on the power play at 17:56, and then Robert Slaney scored with 9 seconds left in regulation to tie the game with StFX's goalie on the bench for the extra attacker. X dominated the overtime period until Jason Bast scored at 6:03 of extra time. Talk about a kick in the shins, and probably explains why the rebuilding Tommies were no-shows against SMU on Saturday.

Friday - STU 5 @ StFX 6 (OT)
Saturday - STU 1 @ SMU 9

Do moral victories count?

It is an understatement to say that the Tigers are having a tough start to the season, while they await the return of their offensive leader Pierre Vandall and search for their first win. But to their credit, after getting waxed by Moncton on Friday, and giving up four straight goals to UNB on Saturday, Dal clawed their way back into the game against the V-Reds in front of a huge crowd (3281), thanks in particular to Chris Ivanko's two power play markers. Give credit also to goaltender Bobby Nadeau who made 39 saves, which could have easily been more on a night the V-Reds were uncharacteristically lacking finish and shooting wide.

Friday - Dal 0 @ UdeM 7
Saturday - Dal 3 @ UNB 4

This week

Wendesday night we've got a full slate of games. StFX is at Acadia, STU is at UNB in round 2 of the Battle of the Hill, SMU is "at" Dal in the Halifax Forum Fight, and Moncton is on the Island to play UPEI.

Friday Acadia is at Dal, UNB is in Moncton, and UPEI is at STU. Saturday sees StFX at SMU, STU in Moncton while UPEI stays in Fredericton to play UNB.




Next PostNewer Post Previous PostOlder Post Home

0 comments:

Post a comment