V-Reds forced to accept 2-2 tie with Black Bears

V-Reds forced to accept 2-2  tie with Black Bears
ORONO, Maine – The visiting University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds couldn’t beat the clock with a well-executed play, and had to settle for a 2-2 overtime tie with the NCAA’s Maine Black Bears on Sunday evening. The 3458 fans at Alfond Arena had to wait several minutes after time expired for the video review of the Chad Denny goal, made interesting because the closest referee indicated it was a goal while the back referee made the call that time had expired. The video eventually revealed that the puck crossed the line 0.2 seconds after time had expired and therefore couldn’t count, much to the relief of the home crowd.
 
UNB had a strong push to start the game, and dominated the early going in the first period. UNB scored on a pretty tic-tac-toe play at 7:38 when rookie Cam Crithlow had an open side of the net to shoot at past Maine’s Martin Ouellette after crisp passes from Colby Pridham and Thomas Nesbitt. The Black Bears got better as the period moved along, and their aggression in driving the net led to a corner scrum in the UNB zone at 11:52 that attracted everyone on the ice, resulting in two players from each team earning roughing minors – brothers Steven and Jon Swavely for the Black Bears and Ben Shutron and Antoine Houde-Caron for the V-Reds. After a good cycle Maine tied the game at 14:48 when senior Kyle Beattie took a pass from rookie Deven Shore and fired a shot from the high slot through a crowd and past UNB goalie Dan LaCosta.
 
Late in the period Bryce Swan crunched a Maine player who appeared to turn his back to the hit at the last second. A visibly upset Swan was assessed a five-minute hitting from behind major penalty and an automatic game misconduct. UNB outshot Maine 12-11 in the first period, but would have to kill of 4:02 of Swan’s major penalty to start the second period. UNB started the game with only 16 skaters, so they would have to continue with 15 after Swan was tossed from the game.
 
The Maine power play cashed in at 1:11 of the second period when Shore was all alone to the side of the net and one-timed a pass from Adam Shemansky past LaCosta and put the Black Bears ahead 2-1. Soon after, and still on the penalty kill, UNB’s Tyler Carroll had a glorious scoring chance on a solo effort in a penalty-shot type move while being harassed by Maine defenders, but he couldn’t quite thread the puck through his and the goalie’s skates at the edge of the crease. Midway through the period the Black Bears subbed rookie goalie Matt Morris into their net. There were a few penalties in the last five minutes of the second period, but not a lot of good scoring chances. Shots were 9-7 for Maine in the period, and they had a slight edge of 20-19 in shots after 40 minutes.
 
UNB was on a carry-over power play to start the third period, and while they didn’t score with the man advantage, shortly after the penalty expired defenceman Chad Denny blasted a heavy shot from the point that deflected off someone in front of the net and found its way past Morris to tie the game 2-2 at the two-minute mark.  A few minutes later LaCosta robbed Maine with a great glove save after a three-on-one Maine break. The final two minutes of the period saw great end-to-end play as both teams appeared to go for broke to win the game.
 
The five minute four-on-four overtime was dominated by UNB, who looked far more comfortable with the extra ice than Maine. UNB’s chances improved just over three minutes into the extra period when Black Bear d-man Brice O’Conner drove the net and was called for goaltender interference for bumping LaCosta. UNB was very patient in the four-on-three situation; perhaps too patient in trying to set up the perfect scoring play. As the clock was running down the UNB forwards drew the three Maine players to the left side of the ice, creating all sorts of time and space for Chad Denny to get the shot past Morris, but a heartbeat after the horn sounded.
 
Gardiner MacDougall told the post-game media scrum, “They’ve been good games for the most part between Maine and UNB. It’s a preparation part of the year, a build-up. We look at the preseason as an important foundation for when we start our regular season. Get into situations with the great crowd here. The Alfond is such a terrific rink to play in. Our guys enjoy the process, and you get some adversity. Some of it is earned and some of it is not controllable.”
 
There was no controversy, but maybe a little hope, on the last shot of the game for MacDougall. “There was the buzzer … that’s what the video does. It was a well-executed play, just a little late. I heard the buzzer, but the referee pointed in so you think maybe we get a break, and maybe even up the breaks a little.”
 
“It was a well-earned tie. I thought our group … well we’ve had three games in four days and played real good opponents. We had to go to places we haven’t been this year with our resolve and fundamental play. The transition game in Maine is very, very good so we had to battle and I thought our battle level was pretty good. We had a lot of key penalty kills. A lot of times it’s one goal here so a lot of times our penalty killers really had to do an outstanding job. I thought our goaltender made big, solid saves and that was a key part and then finding a way to tie the game on the road is a huge confidence boost for the group.”
 
In general, MacDougall believed that “there was a lot of good things for both teams. The battle level was high for both teams. There was a lot of one-on-ones and two-on-twos, corner scrums, and net-front scrums. I thought both teams had good resolve.”
 
Asked about his opinion on the last second UNB goal or non-goal, Maine head coach Tim Whitehead said, “We had a real good view, and fortunately I think the officials did the right thing. The guy down below, his focus is, did it go in the net? And that why he went like this (indicated goal with his arm). The guy up top has the best view; he’s away from the play. That was (referee Thomas) Fryer, and he said no, it was pretty clear that the buzzer went as the guy (Denny) was winding, hadn’t even taken the shot, right at that moment (the horn). Then it went to video, and that’s why we have it.”
 
Evaluating his team Whitehead thought “we competed well tonight and we blocked a lot of shots, even in that last OT. Our two goaltenders played tremendous. It is not an easy situation. You’re coming back (after 2-1 loss on Saturday versus Quinnipiac) against a really, really poised team like New Brunswick. They’ve got some guys who can make plays and really shoot the puck. I thought Marty (Ouellette) and Matt (Morris) were really strong.“
 
When he was asked about the possibility of overtime shootouts in the NCAA (it is the rule in the CIS) Whitehead answered, “It should be considered every time we look at the rules because in most sports you decide the tie. I’m not saying necessarily that we should do it, but we should definitely look at it every year because I think the fans are in favour of it. The NHL has gone to it. It’s something we’ve got to look at. You kind of leave the rink without a feeling of closure.  I know it is one of the most exciting parts of the NHL now.  Exhibition game like this, it would have been nice to have that option.”
 
He added, “We’re gonna keep bringing it up every year. This is the first time we were able to push four-on-four through and that took me five years of proposals until we at least got that as an option (for non-conference games) so I’m pleased with that.”
 
Coach Whitehead had only good things to say about the Varisty Reds after the game. “I’m really impressed with the composure that UNB plays with. It’s just great playing them. There’s no garbage either. It’s all clean. Everything is hard hitting but clean. Just a great rivalry I think we have growing now. Geographically it’s a natural. The mutual respect among the coaching staffs really helps.  Gardiner is just a fabulous coach, a great person, and I just have so much respect for him and his staff and what they’ve been able to do … Roger Shannon, the whole group. Their recruiting is exceptional.”
 
He added, “You know (Maine assistant coach) Dave Alexander is actually a UNB grad. We have a lot of connections.  Most of us have family from the Maritimes, myself included on my Mom’s side of the family. We’d love to keep this relationship going and hopefully every five years we can come up (to Fredericton). We went up a few years back and we’re anxious to do it again.”
 
The Varsity Reds are back home Friday night at 7:00 pm to open the AUS regular season with their home opener against cross-campus rival St.Thomas. On Saturday they host AUS championship finalist Moncton Aigles Bleus.