The Varsity Reds pushed their way to fourth place in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport rankings after their pair of weekend wins against the Acadia Axemen and Dalhousie Tigers.
Their first win would be 5-3 over the Axemen in front of 3,350 fans.
The Reds opened the scoring in the closing minutes of the period with Phillippe Maillet banging in his eighth of the season, assisted by captain Chris Culligan.
Acadia answered with a goal from Mike Cozzola with assists from Liam Heelis and Brett Thompson. They scored again only three minutes into the second period with credit to Tyler Ferry and help from Scott Trask and Colin Archer.
V-Red Thomas Nesbit responded just over a minute later, his seventh of the season.
“I think it’s just the rivalry,” said Nesbit. “We both know there are a lot of other great teams in the league but right now we are one and two [in the AUS] and we have to get through each other to get where we want to go.”
The Reds came out their typical third-period fashion and took the game.
Acadia scored first, early in the final period with a shot by Heelis from Cozzolla, but it would be the Axemen’s final goal.
The V-Reds answered just 14 seconds later with Nesbit’s second of the game and eighth of the season from Marc-Antoine Desnoyers and Cam Braes. Midway through the final frame, Desnoyers caused a turn over at the Acadia line and Cam Critchlow put it in for his seventh of the season.
Followed shortly after by a top shelf goal by V-Reds’ Culligan with a short-handed, un-assisted shot, for their fifth and final goal.
The Reds played less than 24 hours later against the Tigers, where they would take their second win of the weekend.
V-Red Cam Braes picked up his eighth of the season capitalizing on a loose puck out front, with Nick MacNeil and Ben Shutron adding the assists.
Captain Chris Culligan scored on the power play at for his 14th of the season. The goal was a result of some strong puck movement from Culligan, Jordan Murray and Maillet.
Dal tried to answer, but V-Reds goalie Joel Vienneau came up big with a solid glove save with 9:21 remaining.
“I didn’t have many shots, I was starting to get a little bored,” he said. “Then I got the breakaway so it got me going and excited, got the blood rushing through my body and I was back in it.”
The V-Reds took firm control of the first period, outshooting the tigers 18-4 and leading into the second period with a score of 2-0.
UNB’s Mike Thomas put home the team’s third of the game just over four and a half minutes in for his sixth of the season. Culligan and Cam Critchlow battled hard for the puck, chipping in the assists.
The Tigers put their first point on the board with a power play goal from Brad McConnell and assists from Andrew Wigginton and Bobby Nadeau with 7:45 remaining in the game.
With 7:14 left in the game Dal Tigers’ Andrew Rieder took a run at Thomas Nesbit resulting in an ensuing scrum, which left UNB one man short and Dal with a 10-minute misconduct.
V-Red Jordan Murray scored UNB’s fourth goal of the game and his fourth of the season on the power play with 4:33 remaining. Maillet and Braes added the assists.
UNB swept the Tigers in front of 2,040 fans with a 4-1 win, shots on goal 42-17.
UNB appears to be well on their way to playoff-calibre hockey, even with the current faculty strike.
“We have a lot of first-year guys, they are starting to get a taste of what it’s like and that is what it’s like,” said Nesbit. “We are getting there and we’ll be ready.”
Both Nesbit and head coach Gardiner MacDougall agreed that the strike is not really a distraction, and it’s too bad that they aren’t in class, but at the same time the boys can get more ice time.
“It’s unfortunate,” said MacDougall. “They are student-athletes first and foremost and right now they are getting the physical part of that, but it will be good for them to get back to the educational.”
The Reds travel to Orono Tuesday to take on the University of Maine Black Bears.