(FREDERICTON, NB) The University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds scored in the first and second periods, added an empty net goal late in the third, and Etienne Marcoux (Terrebonne, Que.) stopped all 20 shots fired at him, en route to a 3-0 victory over the Acadia University Axemen in the first semi-final of the 2017 Cavendish Farms University Cup. UNB will now play the winner of the second semi-final between St. Francis Xavier University and the University of Saskatchewan.
UNB opened the scoring on their very first shot on goal, at 18:54 of the first, when Chris Caissy (Campbellton, N.B.) drew defenders to his side of the net and slipped the puck to Stephen Anderson (Morell, P.E.I) who put it past Acadia goaltender Robert Steeves (Moncton, N.B.).
"It was right there. I didn't have to work too hard for that," said Anderson after the game. "It got us right into the game, for sure."
Despite trailing, the Axemen defense kept UNB's snipers to outside shots and had a 6-5 edge in shots in that period.
In the second period, Jordan Murray (Riverview, N.B.) added another for UNB with a powerplay shot from the point that found its way past Steeves. And in the third, Chris Clapperton (Cap Espoir, Que.) got behind the defender and rolled a nice pass to Phillipe Maillet (Terrebonne, Que.) who put it into an empty net. UNB outshot Acadia University 30–20.
It was a feisty and spirited game between the two Atlantic University Sport rivals, with dozens of hard hits and blocked shots. UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall was pleased with his penalty kill, which kept Acadia to 0 for 7 on the powerplay. "The special teams were special," he said. "We had to kill a five minute penalty in the third, and when we did that it gave us more confidence."
MacDougall also had high praise for his goaltender. "Marcoux simplified the game. He kept great body position all game, kept calm, and helped kill off those penalties."
This will be the third year in a row that UNB has appeared in the gold medal game of the national university championship. MacDougall acknowledged it as a momentous occasion. "It is really special to get to the final four in the national competition. It is a testament to the quality of the hockey in the AUS that these teams are there," he said.
Acadia coach Darren Burns was pleased with his team's effort, despite the outcome of the game. "In a tournament like this, you can never be flat, and we were the furthest thing from flat," he said. "We played hard. It is a game of bounces, maybe 1 or 2 go our way, and things are different. We completed every shift. UNB is a great team. We need to regroup and be ready for the Bronze game tomorrow."
The 2017 University Cup is being held at the Aitken University Centre on the campus of the University of New Brunswick, in Fredericton. Attendance at the game was 3374.
BY: Mike Gange, for U SPORTS
PHOTO BY: James West, for U SPORTS