HALIFAX (CIS) - The University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds (#5) skated to a convincing 5-1 win over the Western Mustangs (#4) in CIS University Cup quarterfinal action Friday afternoon at Scotiabank Centre.
"We wanted to come out and get the pace going, and I think we were able to do that," Gardiner MacDougall, veteran UNB head coach, said after the game.
"We played really good 'D' overall and we got shots on goal."
In the opening five minutes of the first period, the Mustangs special teams took centre stage, killing off two minor penalties.
On the first UNB man advantage, Western goaltender Greg Dodds butterflied to make a left pad save on a point shot from Randy Gazzola, while seconds later he steered aside a re-direction by Cameron Braes, from the slot, off a slap pass from CIS defenseman of the year Jordan Murray.
During the second two minutes of 5-on-4 hockey, the Mustangs kept the Varsity Red offense on the exterior.
While shorthanded, the Mustangs only surrendered three shots on goal.
At 8:40, the Varsity Reds got on the board, with Philippe Halley ripping a shot from the slot behind Dodds, who surrendered a juicy rebound off a Rob Mignardi attempt. Mignardi garnered the lone assist on the marker.
Midway through the first period, seconds after a penalty call against them, UNB doubled their advantage. Off a face-off, at 9:32, a shot by Matt Petgrave, from his own zone, took a funny bounce and found the back of the net behind Dodds. Colin Suellentrop and Dylan Willick drew assists on the shorthanded tally.
At 15:14, the AUS runners-up jumped ahead 3-0, when Halley gobbled up a loose puck, off a blocked shot from the blue line, and bested Dodds glove side for his second goal of the game. Murray and Marcus McIvor notched the helpers.
Less than two minutes later, Dodds made a diving blocker save against Philippe Maillet to keep Western within three goals. After making the stop, the goaltender pounced on the rebound and smothered the puck.
With just 90 seconds remaining in the opening stanza, Braes got in alone, but Dodds made a stretching right pad save. As a result of the play, due to a Western defender's hook, the UNB forward was awarded a penalty shot. Dodds won the one-on-one battle, sticking with Braes and making a left pad save, after the Varsity Red shooter went from the backhand to forehand, before finishing in tight on the backhand.
A short time later, on a UNB 2-on-1, Dodds made the stop off a cannon from Francis Beauvillier.
The Varsity Reds outshot the Mustangs 14-3 in the first period.
Early in the second period, UNB continued the offensive pressure on the Mustangs, garnering a couple golden opportunities to extend their margin, including Petgrave dashing in off the blue line for a backhander, but Dodds held the fort.
Halfway through the middle frame, the Varsity Reds garnered a couple more chances, with Dodds stopping Mignardi on a breakaway, along with Maillet on a goal-mouth scramble on the lip of crease.
Halley had a great shot at his third tally, off a two-on-one, but Dodds darted across his crease to make a sparkling glove save on the fore-hand effort.
On a UNB man advantage, the Western goaltender made consecutive acrobatic saves to keep his opponents off the score sheet, including a heavy one-timer from Gazzola.
In the final two minutes, with the Mustangs on the power play, the Varsity Reds had the best scoring chance, but Dodds made a top-notch save on Halley, when he lunged and got the paddle down to him.
UNB garnered 15 shots in the second period, while Western collected five.
In the opening two minutes of the third period, the Mustangs garnered their best offensive push of the game, to that point, including off a give-and-go that put Cody Brown in alone, but he could not beat Etienne Marcoux with a backhander from close quarters.
Shortly after, at 1:59, Cameron Brace gave UNB a 4-0 edge, with Beauvillier chipping in the assist.
While shorthanded, Luke Karaim broke in alone on Marcoux, but he could not wipe out the UNB shut-out bid, as the goalie blocked the backhander.
At 6:44, off a three-on-two rush, the Varsity Reds pushed to a five-goal margin. Fresh out of the penalty box, Alex Wall dropped a pass to Gazzola, who got a slap shot away, which Dodds turned away with his blocker. Halley picked up the loose puck, swooped around the Western net and tucked in his hat-trick goal. Gazzola and Wall collected the helpers.
"He is our energizer; he brings so much to our team," MacDougall said of his forward.
Halley said UNB got back to their "team game," rolling four lines, getting pucks to the net and on goal.
"It was a wake-up call for us," he added of the AUS final loss to the rival StFX X-Men earlier this month.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation, the Varsity Reds received a four-minute power play, but they could not score, with Dodds making several key stops, including a pair with the trapper.
At the tail end of the penalty kill, Brown got a second chance to challenge Marcoux one-on-one, and he made no mistake, scoring stick-side on the forehand. The unassisted, shorthanded goal came at 14:26.
"We played a great team today; the best team we have faced this year," Clarke Singer, Western head coach, said of UNB.
"They were a little too much for us."
Marcoux made 14 saves for the win, while Dodds turned aside 40 shots in the loss.
"We worked, we worked and we worked," Singer said, noting the "resiliency" of his club.
"I am so proud of this team. They never gave up, right until the final buzzer."
Halley was the player of the game for the Varsity Reds, while Brown garnered the honour for the Mustangs.
With the win, the Varsity Reds advance to the CIS University Cup semi-finals, Saturday at 4 p.m. ADT, versus the winner of the UQTR Patriotes and Saint Mary's Huskies quarter-final match-up, while the Mustangs have been eliminated from further tournament competition.
The semi-final and championship match-ups will be broadcast live on Sportsnet 360 and TVA Sports (TVA Sports 2 for championship final).
With files from Canadian Interuniversity Sport.
Photo by Nick Pearce.