The curse of even-numbered years stung the Varsity Reds men’s hockey team again this season.
Albeit, a 24-3-1 record in the regular season en route to a seventh consecutive first-place finish stop the Atlantic University Sport standings is nothing to sneeze at.
Unfortunately for UNB, a red-hot Saint Mary’s Huskie goaltender in Anthony Peters would bring an end to a back-to-back championship bid.
Peters, a reigning CIS silver-medalist and who led the AUS all-stars to a gold medal at the World University Games in Trentino, Italy, stopped 141 V-Reds shots in the semi-final – including 50- and 42-save performances in Games 1 and 3 which both went to double-overtime.
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The V-Reds only had 10 players returning from last year`s national championship game – 12 if you include Tim Priamo and Cam Critchlow who sat out the final game, leaving Gardiner MacDougall to fill a healthy number of roster spots.
MacDougall brought in seven rookies by the season opener, most notably AUS rookie of the year Phillipe Maillet who finished the regular season third in conference scoring with 16 goals and 25 assists.
Jordan Murray also had a stellar rookie campaign on defence with a 20-point season, while Matt Petgrave filled the void of an offensive defenceman left by Daine Todd, generating rushes from the back end. Murray was named to the all-rookie team.
After Antoine Houde-Caron left the team before the start of the second-half of the season, Philippe Halley slid into the lineup and immediately began clicking on the top line with captain Chris Culligan and Maillet, a former Victoriaville Tigers linemate.
Halley averaged a point in his 14 regular season games, including a seven-game scoring streak where he scored 13 of his 15 regular season points.
Ben Duffy also joined the team at Christmas after a stint with the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs and the Wheeling Nailers of the East Coast Hockey League. Although he was inserted into the V-Reds game day programs, he never saw any ice time as not to burn a year of his eligibility.
Holding off on Duffy’s debut was a timely move for the V-Reds who will lose Chris Culligan to eligibility – he’s since signed an amateur tryout contract with the AHL’s Texas Stars. Goaltender Charlie Lavigne is also graduating and used his final year of eligibility.
Forward Tyler Carroll is expected to return for his fourth year following an injury-plagued season.
Carroll was limited to only six regular season games after suffering a pre-season injury on a trip to Denver and missed the first nine games of the season, then went down in the gold medal game of the World University Games and missed another 11 game stretch in the second half.
Rob Mignardi will also suit up for UNB next year after two years in the AHL with Manchester and Houston, finishing last year with the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL. Previously, he captained the Owen Sound Attack to an Ontario Hockey League championship.
Defenceman Marc-Antoine Desnoyers and forward Nick MacNeil are also likely not to return for their fifth year of eligibility.
But looking ahead to the next two years the V-Reds are in a good spot to continue the trend of odd-year championships as the AUS will be represented by two teams at the upcoming University Cup championships. St. Francis Xavier will host in 2015, Saint Mary`s in 2016. Both will be at the Halifax Metro Centre.