No. 2 V-Reds take down No. 4 Huskies in battle for 1st

No. 2 V-Reds take down No. 4 Huskies in battle for 1st
With five minutes to go in the third period of a 2-2 game between the No. 2 University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds and the No. 4 Saint Mary's University Huskies, V-Reds rookie Cam Critchlow jumped on the rebound of a Chris Culligan wrap-around attempt, and buried the game-winner top shelf, lifting UNB to a 4-2 win over SMU Friday night at the Aitken Centre in Fredericton.

Total attendance at the game was 3,470 as UNB hosted it's South Side Elementary School night.

"It was a great shift and it was just hard work down low," described Critchlow on his sixth goal of the season. "I saw Cully turn to the net and I just thought there was an opportunity to get a rebound so I parked myself in front of the net."

UNB had a two point lead in the Atlantic University Sport standings before the game, and with the win remained atop the AUS with only four games left in the regular season.

While SMU had success with their AUS-best power play - going 2-for-3 with five shots - Critchlow said the key to UNB's fourth consecutive win was grinding it out deep in SMU's zone.

"That's the biggest part of our game is just being hard on pucks," said Critchlow. "We outworked them down low and our cycle game was amazing."

After a scoreless first period which saw the Huskies come out strong in the first five minutes, but then give up three penalties, UNB opened the scoring two minutes into the second period.

Daine Todd had the puck at the blue line, and sent a soft wrist shot along the ice toward the net. The puck slid through traffic, and through SMU goaltender Anthony Peters' legs for Todd's fourth goal of the year.

UNB went 0-for-3 on the power play in the first period, but after a Parker Deighan cross-checking penalty, Nick MacNeil took a Colby Pridham pass on a 3-on-1, tip-toed through the slot and roofed his 12th of the season, giving UNB a 2-0 lead.

SMU got on the board midway in the period capitalizing on a Marc-Antoine Desnoyers tripping penalty, and 12 seconds into the power play Lucas Bloodoff jumped on his own rebound in the slot for his AUS-leading 19th goal and 34th point of the season.

Late in the period with SMU again on the power play, Ryan Hillier threw a sharp pass into the slot from the corner, and hit a backdoor Cory Tanaka who tipped the puck past UNB goalie Dan LaCosta, tying the game heading into the third period.

UNB added an empty netter by Taylor MacDougall, while LaCosta stopped 20 shots for his 12th win of the season.

While Critchlow was the hero late in the third period, he left the game early after getting cut across his cheekbone by Bloodoff's skate blade after finishing a check. UNB was also without leading goal-scorer Tyler Carroll, and rookie Cam Breas who both sustained upper-body injuries last weekend against the University of Prince Edward Island.

Meanwhile Saint Mary's was without head coach Trevor Steinburg who was left back in Halifax after catching a severe flu. Assistant coach Tyler Naugler took over coaching duties in what he described as "a playoff game" and said he was comfortable behind the bench in such a big game.

"Trevor and I have been together for 12 of his 16 years [at Saint Mary's]," said Naugler. "We're also dealing with a lot of veteran hockey players in there and guys we've won a national championship with. Tonight we made about five mistakes, and they scored on four of them."

UNB are back in action Saturday night against the St. Francis University X-Men, while the Huskies travel to UPEI. Both games start at 7 p.m.