Men's Hockey: Short week with AUS All-Star weekend

It was a short week in AUS men's hockey play; each team had one mid-week game and then 42 selected players were off to Fredericton for the Friday night All-Star game. 29 of those players got to stay the rest of the weekend in snowy and blustery Freddy Beach for the two-day Team Canada orientation camp to prepare for the FISU World Universiade in Trentino, Italy from December 11-21.

The big game Wednesday night was between first place UNB and third place UPEI on the Island. New blog contributor Graham Neysmith has the game story, which saw the V-Reds play their first overtime game in two seasons, and win 2-1 in an OT shootout thanks to the snipe of Taylor MacDougall, son of UNB head coach Gardiner.

Also on Wednesday Moncton was in Fredericton to play St. Thomas, and came away with a much needed 4-1 win. UdeM's Pier-Antoine Dion was the game's first star with a power play and empty net goal.

There were back-to-back games at the Halifax Forum, home rink for both Saint Mary's and Dalhousie. Wednesday evening StFX jumped to an early lead and cruised to a 5-2 win over Dal, outshooting the Tigers 46-19 in the game. Thursday was a much closer match as Acadia and SMU exchanged goals until Michael Clarke scored the winner in the third period. Though the Axemen earned the 4-3 win, and stretched their winning streak to five games, they lost forward Joe Gaynor to a possible concussion. He was also unable to attend the All-Star game on Friday.

Just over 500 fans showed up for Friday's spirited AUS All-Star game at the Grant*Harvey Centre, the first since 1999, and coming only 25% of the way into the season. The early date was mandated by the design of using the all-star game as the final identification camp for those players on the bubble to make Team Canada. Matt Tidcombe has a game summary on the AUS website. The game was played in four periods of unequal length. Head coach Gardiner MacDougall had his black-sweatered squad up 2-1 at the halfway point in the game. He then switched benches and Team White promptly took over the lead, and finished the game with a 4-2 win.

The original plan was that the next morning, Saturday, MacDougall and his two assistants, UPEI head coach Forbie MacPherson and StFX head coach Brad Peddle, would announce their overnight cuts down to the final 22-man roster and begin their two-day mini camp on the Grant*Harvey's secondary Olympic-sized ice surface. Well it didn't quite work out, because AUS math got in the way.

The AUS rule for their version of Team Canada is that each of the eight schools will have at least one player on the team, and no school shall have more than four players. Fair enough, but three players who would normally be shoo-ins for the team -- SMU goalie Anthony Peters, UNB forward Tyler Carroll and Dal forward Pierre-Alexandre Vandall -- are injured and have yet to play a conference game this season. All are apparently close to coming back, and may play next weekend.

Instead of completely committing themselves to those injured players Saturday morning, the coaching trio decided after a late night of discussion to pare the team from what was a working list of 35 down to 29 players -- 15 forwards, 9 defencemen and 5 goalies -- so as keep their potential alternates up to speed as they build the team and to give the coaches more time to evaluate those alternates.

As of now, the final 22-man roster has not been announced, but MacDougall and company will have to lock down his team real soon and make the tough decision on what to do about the injured players. We'll post that list when it becomes available.

Next weekend we'll get the final first-meetings of the season finished up. Friday night Acadia is at UNB, where a regulation-time win would put the Axemen in a first-place time with the V-Reds, while Dal is at Moncton. Saturday night the visitors swap New Brunswick hosts.

In Nova Scotia on Friday night St. Thomas is at StFX while UPEI is at Saint Mary's. Saturday night the Panthers are at the X-Men while the Tommies are at the Huskies.
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