V-Reds take 1-0 series lead with win over Panthers

V-Reds take 1-0 series lead with win over Panthers
The University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds men's hockey team took a 1-0 lead in the Subway Atlantic University Sport semi-finals Thursday night, with a 7-2 win over the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers at the Aitken Centre.

The V-Reds have been on a 13-day break after earning a first-round bye, but didn't seem to lose a step in their game, and in fact ignited a power play that's been scoreless in its last 16 attempts, scoring three goals on six tries.

Nick MacNeil extended his point streak to six games, also scoring six goals during that stretch with two Friday night, while Josh Kidd and Tyler Carroll each scored in their first game back from injury. Cam Braes and Bryce Swan also added goals for UNB on the power play, while Stefan Salituro rounded out the score sheet.

Tyler Brown and Reggie Traccitto each scored on the power play for the Panthers, while also assisting on each others' goals.

UPEI came out hitting in the opening minutes, which seemed to wake up the rested V-Reds.

But six minutes into the game Cole MacMillan was called for tripping, and UNB scored eight seconds into the ensuing power play, with Chris Culligan drawing the puck back to Ben Shutron, who waited and ripped a howitzer from the point which Braes redirected past UPEI goalie Wayne Savage.

Midway through the second period the V-Reds started a 3-on-2 rush up ice, and MacNeil got behind defenseman Harrison McIver, took a Colby Pridham cross-slot pass, and roofed his first of the playoffs.

Three minutes later MacNeil had the puck behind the UPEI net, and while trying a wrap-around he threw the puck across the crease to the far post, which redirected off a UPEI player and in for MacNeil's second of the game, putting UNB up 3-0.

But the Panthers got on the board three minutes later, taking advantage of a 5-on-3 after Dion Campbell and Marc-Antoine Desnoyers were sent off for hooking and roughing.

UPEI tried to get point shots through traffic, and after a shot from Traccitto missed, Chris Desousa collected the rebound and set up Traccitto for another one-timer. UNB goalie Dan LaCosta stopped the initial shot, but Brown parked himself in front of the net, and spun a backhand shot around and past LaCosta.

Two minutes into the third period, UNB was pressing again in the Panthers' zone with Taylor MacDougall controlling the puck behind the Panthers' net. He started toward the inside boards but hit the brakes, went back the other way, and fed Salituro on the doorstep who backhanded a one-time shot past a fooled Savage, putting UNB up 4-1.

Later in the period with the faceoff in UNB's zone, Colby Pridham was tied up off the draw but Kidd came in to jar the puck free. He played it up to Matt Fillier in the neutral zone, and turned on the jets and joined the rush. Kidd got behind the defence where Fillier fed him for a short breakaway. Kidd made no mistake, taking the puck backhand-to-forehand and sliding it under Savage.

UPEI then replaced Savage with backup Mavric Parks. But 40 seconds later, UNB went back to the power play, and started a rush up ice. Culligan took the puck into the Panthers' zone along the far boards, and fed a cross-ice pass to a backdoor Braes. Braes paused for a moment, then fed Carroll in the slot who tapped in his first of the playoffs putting UNB up 6-1.

But the Panthers responded late in the game, with Traccitto again teeing up a slap shot from the point on the power play, this time beating a screened LaCosta for his first of the playoffs.

UNB added one more in the final minute with Bryce Swan scoring his first goal since Jan. 18th. After Swan has a goal waved off after kicking it in, the faceoff came to centre ice where Braes won it cleanly to Critchlow. Critchlow tipped a one-touch pass to Swan who was sprung on a breakaway, and snapped a shot top corner glove-side to seal the win.

Nick MacNeil was awarded first star honours with his two goals, while Colby Pridham earned second star with a pair of assists. Josh Kidd was named third star with a goal in his first game back since Dec. 4th.

LaCosta stopped 28 shots for his first career AUS playoff win, while UNB outshot UPEI 40-30.

Both teams will play Friday night at 7 p.m., for game two of the Subway AUS semi-finals.