AUS final: Varsity Reds win AUS championship in OT
FREDERICTON – It seems somewhat fitting that the AUS men's hockey championship would end in overtime Friday night, just like the first two games of the series played at the Aitken University Centre. This time it was UNB captain Kyle Bailey (Ponoka, AB) scoring the winner at 3:43 of overtime, on the power play, to bring the sold out crowd of 3650 to their feet. The No. 1 ranked Varsity Reds squeak out a 5-4 Game Five victory over the No. 4 ranked StFX X-Men, and capture their first AUS championship since 2008, and their 12th banner all time.
As could be expected in a championship game, there was a bit of edge to the play in the early going. StFX's Rob Warner (Whitehorse, YK) and UNB's Nick MacNeil (Creignish, NS) got tangled up alongside the UNB bench and both were sent off for two minutes for roughing after the whistle at the 34 second mark. The first goal of the game came at 6:14 when Hunter Tremblay (Timmins, ON) took a pass from Chris Culligan (Howie Center, NS) and beat Joey Perricone (San Juan Capistrano, CA) with a quick wrister through the pads. The noise after the goal was deafening, enhanced by the hundreds of UNB students who took advantage of the one-time opportunity to buy tickets for a only a dollar apiece.
A couple of minutes later defenceman Marc-Antoine Desnoyers (Hippolyte, PQ) was unable to clear the puck out of the V-Reds zone, and the puck eventually came to Kevin Undershute (Medicine Hat, AB) who rang a heavy shot off the post. Midway through the period StFX had another glorious scoring opportunity when Brett Morrison (Howie Centre, NS) deked a UNB defenceman on the way to the net, but Travis Fullerton (Riverview, NB) made the save.
UNB extended their lead at 16:45 and once it again it was Tremblay with the goal. This time he had a partial break thanks to a pass from Daine Todd (Stettler, AB) who made a good play to steal the puck. Perricone made a pad save off the rush, but the big rebound went right back to Tremblay who hammered the puck past the StFX goalender. A minute later Bailey was tripped up while driving the net by boyhood friend Mark Louis (Ponoka, AB) and the V-Reds went on the powerplay. UNB only generated one shot on goal with the man advantage, and the X-Men escaped to the dressing room down 2-0 while being outshot 13-8.
Ten days ago StFX was down 2-0 after one period in Game 5 against Saint Mary's, and they came back in the second period to tie the game, and eventually win it it double overtime. Well the X-Men had a similarly dominant second period in this game, and they were buzzing the UNB net when power forward Bryce Swan (Alder Point, NS) knocked the rebound past Fullerton at 1:30. Two minutes later StFX co-captain Chris Hulit (Sault Ste. Marie, ON) was called for goaltender interference, but UNB once again wasn't able to score on the power play.
StFX tied the game at 13:16 when Jason Bast (Moose Jaw, SK) was able to get around UNB defender Ben Wright (Foremost, AB) with the puck, and then make a pass through the slot to Undershute who had a wide-open side of the net to score into. At the time of the goal the shots were tied 15-15. That goal took the crowd out of the game for awhile, as they nervously waited for UNB to respond. StFX kept the pressure on and outshot the home side 13-2 in the middle period.
UNB's Jonathan Harty (Oromocto, NB) took a slashing penalty right at the end of the second period, so StFX would have a power play to start the third period. UNB successfully killed off the penalty, and 26 seconds after that, they were back in the lead when Bailey fired the puck through a crowd and Perricone never moved until after the red light came on. UNB's penalty woes continued however. Jeff Lee (Calgary, AB) was called for high-sticking at 3:02. UNB killed it off. Defenceman Josh Kidd (Sundridge, ON) was called for elbowing after a heavy collision behind the UNB net. This time the X-Men scored to tie it up at 6:14 when Phil Mangan (Gananogue, QC) saw his puck from the high slot beat Fullerton over the shoulder and land just inside the far post.
At 13:37 Culligan made a great individual effort to score, as he drew an interference penalty call against Nick Pageau (Stoney Creek, ON) as he broke out of the UNB zone and then on his breakaway Culligan was caught just as he drove the net as a StFX defencemen swept his feet out from under him, but by first playing the puck as decided by the referees. The fans wanted a penalty shot, but didn't get it. Highlighting the importance of the power play opportunity, UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall called a timeout to plot a strategy for his team. Maybe it worked, because Desnoyer ripped a point shot through a screen at 14:17 that caught just under the crossbar. Perricone had no chance on the go ahead goal.
As has been seen all series, the X-Men didn't let the goal deflate them, and at 16:43 Morrison scored in a scrum to tie it up yet again. No more goals came in the final period so the teams headed to overtime after a three minute break.
UNB appeared to have the edge in the extra period, and twice StFX players committed what the vocal crowd thought were infractions against UNB players, but the officials disagreed. The third time it happened the crowd got their way, when Hulit was called for hooking in the V-Reds zone. One minute into the power play Jordan Clendenning (Fredericton, NB) got the puck to Bailey, and he got just enough on his shot to put the puck up and over the outstretched Perricone and into the net at 3:43. Pandemonium then erupted on the ice and in the stands as the V-Reds and their fans celebrated the moment. UNB outshot StFX 4-0 in the overtime and 25-23 in the game.
The players of the game were Hunter Tremblay for UNB and Jason Bast for StFX. Tremblay was proud of his teammates in the hard fought contest. "We had two or three times to close them out. We had the the lead two or three times. Give them credit, they [StFX] came back all throughout the series. It was a big win for our group. Not only for the championship but throughout the series. We got some confidence that we could come back from deficits."
UNB captain Kyle Bailey was understandably pleased after the game. "It's pretty amazing. You spend four years in this league and you really appreciate how hard it is to win the AUS championship. I just couldn't be happier for the guys. I'm really proud of them."
After the game, StFX head coach Brad Peddle was already looking ahead to next week and the Cavendish University Cup. "We'll take two days off this weekend and Monday we'll be ready to go again."
Game Notes: Some lucky fan won $4312 in the 50/50 draw, the biggest payout of the season ... Luke Gallant and Taylor Procyshen did not dress for UNB ... Lachlan MacIntosh was back in the V-Reds lineup and Nick Layton was scratched to make room ... The game marked the 12th playoff game for the X-Men and the 9th for the V-Reds ... Three games in this best-of-five series went to overtime ... StFX will still advance to the Cavendish University Cup next week in Fredericton, most likely in a pool with Alberta and McGill while there is a good chance Calgary and Western will be in the other pool with UNB ... The tournament committee will set the pools, with the three conference champs seeded 1,2,3 based on the final Top 10 rankings.
Source: UNB Sports Info