Until tonight, cross campus rivals St. Thomas had not beat the University of New Brunswick in men's hockey for 36 games, going back to October 20, 2006 (3-1 at the York Arena). Until tonight, the Tommies had not beat the Varsity Reds at the Aitken University Centre for 28 games, over ten years ago, since February 28, 2003 (2-1 in overtime). The Battle of the Hill (for the uninitiated that's Fredericton's College Hill that their shared campus is built on) has been pretty one-sided these last years. Until tonight.
STU took advantage of two first-period power play goals (although technically the first goal was even-strength as it came four seconds after the UNB penalty ended but before the culprit could get from the sin bin to the UNB zone), stuck to their systems to protect the lead, and from then on pretty much rode goaltender Jon Groenheyde to an improbable 3-2 win.
As UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall remarked after the game, "Give them full credit, their goaltender made the saves when he had to, they got the kills when they had to, and they protected the lead very well. They got the lead, they protected it and extended it. We came back and they protected it again."
The game was not without controversy, as UNB had two apparent goals waved off. While there's no video replay in the AUS, the V-Reds own game video left them convinced that they were good goals, which of course was the consensus of the partisan UNB fans at the time. Also concerning was the number of questionable or marginal penalties called - this was not a chippy game, but 12 minors were handed out along with three automatic 10-minute misconducts for checking from behind penalties.
Special teams and goaltending ended up being the difference in the game. UNB only managed one power play goal in 5 opportunities, and that was while they had a one-minute two-man advantage. They outshot the Tommies 44-20 in the game, but obviously didn't bury enough of their opportunities. STU was much more opportunisitic - their third goal, the eventual winner, came in the second period from Jonathan Bonneau on a stretch-pass breakaway seconds after the UNB defence jumped up into the play at the other end and forced Groenheyde to made a big save.
With the rare lead in the third period, the Tommies were able to sit back and let UNB carry the play, have Groenheyde make the first save while at the same time ensuring that the ice was so clogged in front of their goalie that the V-Reds couldn't get clean second and third shots. And it worked.
As for former Tommies defenceman and first-year coach Pat Powers, "I'm glad the streak is over for the institution's sake. I'm glad we were able to win this game for our team's sake."
For the AUS fans in Fredericton, I'm just glad we got our rivalry back.