FREDERICTON – The University of New Brunswick men's hockey team spotted the visiting Carleton Ravens the first goal, but veteran forward Nick MacNeil replied with two power play goals to pace the Varsity Reds to a 3-1 win in preseason exhibition play Thursday night before a crowd of 1251 at the Aitken University Centre.
The first period was understandably sloppy, with Carleton playing their first game of the season and UNB just their second after a disappointing 6-2 loss to Moncton Monday night in Abrams-Village, PE. While the passes and shooting may have been off, the physical play picked up pretty quickly for the two red 'n black uniformed teams from different CIS conferences who last met back in September 19, 2008 in a much more one-sided game, a 7-0 loss for the Ravens.
Despite some sustained territorial pressure from the V-Reds, it was the Ravens who were first on the scoresheet at 7:10 of the second period. UNB's Travis Fullerton (Riverview) made the initial save on Carleton's Tyler Taylor (Kitchener, ON) off the rush, but rookie Jack Walchessen (Ortley Bay, NJ) was able to bat the rebound past the sprawling goaltender. The V-Reds had a great opportunity to tie the game just over six minutes later, but as the forwards crashed the net looking for the puck that clanged off the goalpost, they knocked the net off its pegs before the puck was fired into the net and the goal was waved off by the referee. Late in the period a streaking Antoine Houde-Caron (Trois-Riviers) forced Carleton's Mike Folkes (Burlington, ON) to take a penalty to nullify a great scoring chance. On the subsequent UNB power play Nick MacNeil (Creignish) tied the game with 18 seconds to go in the period when he used the shaft of his stick to redirect a Marc-Antoine Desnoyers (St.Hippolyte) point shot past Ravens goalie Ryan Dube (Sault Ste. Marie, ON).
UNB was on the power play again at 13:46 of the third period when Desnoyers wired a low point shot that may even have caught the inside of the right post. No matter, as MacNeil was Johnny-on-the-spot and stuffed the rebound past Dube. Just over three minutes later there was an incident that led to a scrum in front of the Carleton bench and several minor penalties and ten-minute misconducts to both teams. The Ravens ended up with a power play but couldn't cash in. Pulling their goalie in the last minute didn't help either, as Thomas Nesbitt (Ottawa) unselfishly fed the puck over to rookie Cam Braes (Shawinigan Lake, BC) for the empty net goal.
Ravens head coach Marty Johnston, a former star player with the Dalhousie Tigers, was not overly disappointed with the final outcome. “Generally speaking we were happy with the effort. I think in the first period we were a little sluggish. The first ten minutes in the second period were probably our best. UNB I think deserved the win. They carried the play for the most part but I was happy with our effort.” When asked about the physical edge to the game, Johnston replied, “It is a bit of our identity I think. In our league we're sorta known as a physical team. We're sort of a lunch pail team. So that's what we wanted from our guys and we know from watching UNB last year that they have big forwards and they were going to bring it as well.”
Across the ice outside the V-Reds dressing room, Nick MacNeil admitted that he was a bit surprised by the physicality of the exhibition game. “I didn't know much about their team just because they play in the OUA. They were really physical tonight and they brought a lot of edge and might have caught us off guard for a little bit. But we responded well in the second and third period.” Not that he minded the edge. “When you haven't played in so long ... in practice you're not used to slashing guys and stuff like that. It was a good character builder for us tonight and I'm looking forward to the game on Sunday.”
The Varsity Reds next host the touring UQTR Patriotes Sunday at 2:00 pm at the AUC.