Men's Puck Bracketology: Varsity Reds return to the summit; AUS medal sweep

Championship Sunday UNB 3 St. Francis Xavier 1

Two goals in 17 seconds in the mid-second put the Varsity Reds on the path, with Randy Gazzola, the St. Catharines, Ont., native who helped Val-d'Or come one goal from the 2014 Memorial Cup, chipping in an assist from his D spot.

Looks like this was the usual muck-a-thon that prevails late in the season, that hockey types will tell you is tense and great and you can't get it since You Never Played The Game. This contest had 83 faceoffs, one each 43.37 seconds. So, it was a lot of souvenir pucks, and a lot of tedium.

Gazzola, like the X-Men, has played some triple overtime. He was in that record-OT semifinal at the 2014 Cup that the Ottawa Senators' Curtis Lazar ended in the third extra session, sending Edmonton to the final where it beasted the Guelph Storm and Robby Fabbri.

Bronze-medal gameSaint Mary's 5, Saskatchewan 2

Calder Brooks (Calgary/P.A./Spokane, WHL) has two goals, and he is from Emerald Park, Sask., so sick burn on his home province. Good finish for Saint Mary's, going with the bronzes in women's basketball and women's hockey. If only they could be third in AUS in football!

Saturday's semifinal — St. Francis 2 Saskatchewan 1 (3OT); UNB 4 Saint Mary's 0

Record for longest CIS University Cup overtime, or it did not happen! Well, it did: Michael Clarke (Cape Breton, QMJHL) ended the 107-minute 35-second gruelathon with the triple-OT winner in St. Francis Xavier's 2-1 decision against the Saskatchewan Huskies.

Now the X-Men get to verify that there was nothing aberrant about the two-game sweep of UNB in the AUS final, when both teams were playing for the higher seed.

Talking point: is this tournament showing the worth of a two-year host cycle, where the host schools rotate? St. FX was in as host last season, and no doubt that experience fed having to play more than 100 minutes.

Jordon Cooke (Kelowna Rockets, WHL), Saskatchewan's goalie, made 61 saves. Cooke has logged 223 minutes 46 seconds in the tournament, which normally, would mean the backup gets the next start.

Meantime, New Brunswick has won each of its games by four goals. That is not a portent of anything, plus the opposition was barely-ranked Western and Saint Mary's, the third or fourth-best AUS.

Question: Should Cooke be MVP if Saskatchewan wins the bronze game? Probably a little too radical an idea, but 11 periods of hockey in 48 hours, and the goalie allowed four goals.

No excuses for Halifax not to have a crowd. It's kismet since the hockey went to a conference for a two-year run instead of a one-off hosted by a school.

It's also the last good hockey Halifax will have till September, since the Quebec League's Mooseheads are an also-ran after reaping some sic transit gloria. That is Latin for "Nik Ehlers made the Jets."

Friday's 1/8/4/5 pod — Saint Mary's HuskiesTrois-Rivières Patriotes 2UNB Varsity Reds 5, Western Mustangs 1; UNB & SMU play the late-afternoon semifinal at 5 p.m. ET 

Given that the Saint Mary's Huskies are bolstered by Stephen (Birdman) MacAulay, who had two primary assists in the 3-2 takedown of Trois-Rivières, it's not surprising they won in the host vs. top seed game. Remember, MacAulay might be one of the winningest players who ever graced the Quebec League, with four finals, three President's Cup titles and Memorial Cup wins with the 2011 Sea Dogs and 2013 Mooseheads. On top of that, if there was a friendler player on any Q team at the 2010-14 Cups, he must have been a black ace who wasn't requested for interviews.

Memory of MacAulay saving a slow news day at 2012 Memorial Cup in Shawinigan. Word got around Centre Bionest that the night before, MacAulay had set a plastic bag containing a T-shirt down on his hotel room's hotplate, which was turned on, although no player owned up to it. Suddenly, there was a smell of burning plastic assailing nostrils up and down the hall. A high odor tolerance is a vocational necessity to play hockey, but eventually, Tomas Jurco went down the hall and said, "Hey Mac, I think your room's on fire."

The point of the story is that MacAulay was cool about an awkward moment being shared in the media. Just one more reason to pay attention to the junior exes in CIS.

Incidentally, rough end to a season for UQTR 'tender Sébastien Auger (QMJHL, Saint John Sea Dogs). Auger was the 55-game workhorse in Saint John two seasons back when they finished second-last in the Q and had to make four visits to the Metro Centre to face the Mooseheads with Ehlers and Jonathan Drouin.

Note on the first game:  Philippe Halley would appear to be where he's needed, and where he needs to be. Halley (Gatineau/Victoriaville, QMJHL) had a hat trick in the 5-1 V-Reds' victory against Western Mustangs.

Please remember that Halley, who was a two-time 40-goal scorer in the Q, took a shot at the Coast league two seasons ago with Gwinnett. Over 2½ seasons with Gardiner MacDougall, Halley's put up numbers at about a point-per-game rate. A hatter in a University Cup is pretty special since teams have so much time to video-analyze opponents. There are no surprises at at a hoops or hockey Final 8. That only goes for the teams, not us media types.

Thursday's 2/7/3/6 pod — Saskatchewan Huskies 3, Carleton Ravens 2 (4OT); St. Francis Xavier X-Men 6, Alberta Golden Bears 2, so western Huskies & X-Men at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday

Pour one out for Carleton's fourth-year forward Joey West (OHL, Peterborough Petes).

Now, you heard that the longest CIS University Cup game undulated in Halifax until Parker Thomas (MJHL, Selkirk Steelers) scored in the fourth overtime to give No. 2 seed Saskatchewan the 3-2 quarter-final win against wild-card Carleton after 116 minutes 11 seconds.

It would be a hell of a twist had Saskatchewan, after finally being the higher seed out of Canada West instead of Alberta, had lost. Huskies goalie Jordon Cooke (WHL, Kelowna Rockets) handled 58-of-60 shots for the Huskies. Carleton's cord-cottage counterpart, Pat Killeen (OHL, Brampton Battalion) made 65 saves before Thomas poked in his own rebound for the decider.

Of course, all clichés about the end-at-any-moment tension of apply, but one keeps coming back to West, a fourth-year Ravens forward. In 2013, Carleton had also had season-ending quadruple-overtime loss, falling to Trois-Rivières in OUA playoffs. It turns out, at least based on Thursday's summary and the HockeyDB for the '12-13 Ravens, West has the only Raven who competed in both games. Francis Dupuis was the backup goalie in both times.

It's just sports, but damn, how many people who plays 4-5 years in any team sport that can multiple-overtime games experience that twice? And West is already an OHL/OUA rarity, as a one-team player in each league. His entire OHL tenure, which was actually only five years, was with the Peterborough Petes, and although West was universally regarded as an outstanding leader, the Petes did not win a playoff series the whole time.

Also, Alberta's not in the semifinal? Next thing you know the province will have a NDP premier.

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