(ANTIGONISH, NS) The U SPORTS No. 1 ranked UNB Varsity Reds are the 2018 Atlantic University Sport men’s hockey champions.
They took the best-of-three Subway AUS championship series two games straight with a 5-0 shutout victory over the No. 3 ranked St FX X-Men, Wednesday night in Antigonish.
It’s the first AUS men’s hockey banner for UNB since 2015, and 15th in team history.
“It’s a big step in our journey,” said Varsity Reds head coach Gardiner MacDougall. “We’ve learned some lessons in the past two years, but now the focus is our first game at nationals.”
The X-Men had been two-time, defending AUS champs.
“The group has progressed,” said MacDougall, of his team. “We are a team that is the sum of our parts, and we need to be a little bit better than the sum of our parts, and this series we got better with the sum of our parts.”
Wednesday saw five different UNB goal scorers contribute to the win, and Subway AUS playoff MVP Alex Dubeau(Mascouche, QC) earn the shutout, his second of the playoff season. Dubeau is 5-and-0 in the playoffs.
“It takes leadership, it takes character, and that’s what we have,” said Dubeau. “We got guys who have won in the past and they brought it tonight, they were really sharp and I felt pretty good, so that’s a good combination.”
After a tentative opening, the Varsity Reds got on the board with five minutes left in the first period, when Mike Thomas(New Maryland, NB) scored short-handed. He outskated an X defender and, with a quick shot, beat netminder Chase Marchand(Halifax, NS) low on the far side.
“We had an okay first period,” said X-Men head coach Brad Peddle. “In the second period we had a chance to score and they turned it back and scored and then it was tough to get momentum from them. They kept coming and our guys tried, it wasn’t from lack of effort, we just couldn’t execute, whether it was power-play or penalty kill.”
“The last couple of games we’ve just run into some problems in terms of execution,” he continued. “It’s all fixable stuff, we just have to get back to being the confident team that we’ve been all year.”
The visiting Varsity Reds increased their lead 3:32 into the second on a goal from Alex Goulet(Disraeli, QC). After X-Men forward Nathan Pancel(Ottawa, ON) was stopped on a breakaway attempt, the Varsity Reds brought the puck back up ice and Goulet used the X defenseman as a screen to fire a low shot under the pads of Marchand.
Chris Clapperton(Cap d’Espoir, QC) gave the V-Reds a 3-0 lead with a power-play marker five minutes later.
Cam Brace(Etobicoke, ON) padded the lead about three minutes into the third, with a finely placed goal from a tight angle that squeezed over the left shoulder of Marchand and under the cross bar.
Matt Boudens(Pembroke, ON) made it a 5-0 game, taking a pass in the slot from Stephen Anderson(Morell, PE) and ripping a high shot past Marchand.
Clapperton was named the Subway Player of the Game.
Dubeau made 19 saves, while Marchand turned aside 39 in the St FX net, as the home team was outshot 44-19.
The focus for both squads now shifts to the U SPORTS championship, March 14-18 in Fredericton.
The host Varsity Reds earn their spot in the tournament with the AUS title.
The X-Men have also earned a spot, as AUS finalists.
A third AUS berth awaits the winner of the conference consolation series between Acadia and Saint Mary’s. That series is tied 1-1, with Game Three scheduled for Friday, in Wolfville.
“We’ve had 12 forwards who have all contributed, six ‘D’ who have played outstanding, and have had outstanding goaltending,” said MacDougall. “It’s a good confidence boost for the group, and now we’ve got a lot of work to do heading into next week but it’s a good step for our team.”
The seeding for the 2018 Cavendish Farms University Cup and tournament schedule will be released on Sunday.
RECAP AND PHOTOS BY: St FX Athletics