Penalties have major impact in UNB loss to SMU

Penalties have major impact in UNB loss to SMU
FREDERICTON – The Saint Mary’s Huskies may have squeaked out a 4-3 win over the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds in men’s hockey action Saturday night, but all the 2238 fans could talk about as they left the Aitken University Centre was the imbalance in penalty calls that had a direct impact on the game. In a game that was not overly physical, the Huskies had 13 power plays to the V-Reds’ three, and Saint Mary’s was able to score twice on five-on-three manpower situations in the third period to first break the tie and then build a two-goal lead. Strikingly, UNB outshot SMU 37-20 in the match; 33-12 if you just count when the two teams were at even strength.

The game started with a lot of promise, as both teams were coming off wins the night before and both came out flying. The Huskies had the early edge on the forecheck, keeping UNB penned in their own zone for several shifts. Saint Mary’s were first on the scoreboard at 3:41 when UNB defenceman Ben Shutron turned over the puck in his own zone to Cory Tanaka, who quickly went top corner on Travis Fullerton for the unassisted goal.  While they didn’t score on their first play, two shifts later UNB did tie the game when Antoine Houde-Caron created the play in centre ice and got the puck to Cam Critchlow in tight to SMU netminder Anthony Peters. Forty-three seconds later the V-Reds took the lead when Thomas Nesbitt sniped the top right corner with a one-timer off a clean faceoff win by Cam Braes.

Later in the period the Varsity Reds were enjoying a brief four-on-three when the Huskies were whistled for too many men on the ice for a bad line change. It lasted 12 seconds, until 15:22, when Bryce Swan was pushed into the Peters by a SMU defenceman, yet was called for goaltender interference. With just over two minutes to go in the period Chad Denny had a tough shift when the puck kept bouncing over his stick and he was eventually called for slashing, but UNB successfully killed off the penalty.

There wasn’t much debate about SMU’s Matt Tipoff slashing penalty at 4:16 of the second period, nor the holding penalty an over-aggressive Tyler Carroll took for UNB just over five minutes later. However the fans started to get restless after an interference penalty handed to Colby Pridham out of a contested faceoff, and then Chris Culligan had his shorthanded breakaway attempt blown for a two-line outlet pass that looked good. A few minutes later Marc-Antoine Desnoyers was called for hooking as he tried to stop a Huskie on a partial break, but the V-Reds killed it off. Late in the period Swan was called for tripping, but this time SMU scored on the power play when the puck deflected off Shutron’s stick right to Tipoff.

UNB came out of the dressing room in the third period looking to quickly retake the lead, and were buzzing all around the Saint Mary’s net. However at 2:36 Denny made a big hit along the boards and was called for interference. Soon after killing off that penalty, Houde-Caron was called for interference against 6’7” Huskies captain Justin Wallingford. On that penalty kill Pridham lost his stick as a SMU player went down and he was called for tripping. On the next faceoff, Desnoyers was called for slashing after his stick broke jostling for position with a Huskie, and the V-Reds were facing an extended five-on-tree shorthanded situation. There was no call when SMU power forward Lucas Bloodoff got tied up with Fullerton in the crease, and seconds later Stephen Johnston scored for the Huskies. Still on the five-on-three power play Chris MacKinnon snapped a point shot from the top of the circle to give the visitors a two-goal lead at 8:07, although you could barely hear the goal announcement over the boos of the agitated Fredericton fans.

UNB put on a furious push to close the gap, and were rewarded when Pridham scored at 15:13 with a beautiful shot. But that was as close as they would come, despite outshooting SMU 14-6 in the final period.

UNB was 0-for-3 on the power play while Saint Mary’s was 3-for-13 with the man advantage. UNB had a 39-28 advantage in faceoff wins in the game.

About his team’s four-point weekend road trip, Saint Mary’s head coach Trevor Stienberg said, “I won’t tell you how many points we would have been satisfied with because I think you should go for four every time, and we did, but it’s been a long time since we had a weekend like that. Certainly, winning including coming in here because they’ve got such a good team.”

Acknowledging that coaches are forbidden under pain of fines and suspensions about commenting on officiating, UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall was asked by the media, on the record, about the disproportionate number of penalties called against the V-Reds in the game. His quiet reply was, “When we’re not happy with our Premier, we can talk about him. If we’re not happy about our Prime Minister, we can talk about him. But I have no comment, unfortunately.”

UNB forward Colby Pridham, a former captain at Saint Mary’s, would only offer “No comment” about his new team getting called for the last eight penalties in the game. About the game overall he said, “I thought we played well. Five-on-five I thought we had a really good game. I liked our energy. But there is no question discipline is something we need to work on. But I liked our game. We played well. They’ve got a good team. The whole league is like that. It’s so even. You don’t show up, you don’t win.”

The three game stars were: 1. Colby Pridham 2. Marc-Antoine Desnoyers 3. Anthony Peters.