Entering the final week of the regular season, the UNB Varsity Reds men’s hockey team is in the driver’s seat of the Atlantic University Sport standings.
With two games remaining, the Varsity Reds sit in first place with a 21-3-2 record. Their latest wins came this past weekend at the Aitken Centre where UNB defeated one of the league’s best and one of the league’s worst.
Coming off a disappointing 4-1 loss at Acadia on Jan. 24, UNB faced off against the Axemen this past Friday at the AUC.
It was a penalty-filled first period but neither team was able to convert on the man advantages. At the 15:01 mark of the period, Jordan Murray threw the puck on net and it found its way through Brandon Glover to give UNB a 1-0 lead after one.
UNB was not able to hold on to the lead long though, as Mike Cazzola scored the equalizer for Acadia just 1:28 into the second stanza. At 5:50, Acadia defenceman Remy Giftopolous received a five-minute major and game misconduct for a hit to the head. Despite having five minutes with the extra man, the V-Reds could not score to take the lead.
With time in the final frame winding down, Acadia took a delay of game penalty at 18:26 to send UNB to the power play. The Axemen survived the UNB advantage though and the match headed to overtime.
At 1:58 of overtime, Philippe Halley broke into the attacking zone and was able to get a shot off with the rebound making its way to Randy Gazzola at the left faceoff circle. The Reds defenceman was able to wrist the puck into the top corner to give the Varsity Reds a huge 2-1 victory. Goaltender David Shantz made 17 saves in the victory. UNB finished the game with 30 shots on goal.
On Saturday night, UNB played host to the Dalhousie Tigers. The Varsity Reds gave David Shantz the night off in net and started Chris Carrozzi. With Jordan Murray, Matt Petgrave and R.D. Chisholm out of the lineup, UNB only had four defencemen dressed.
Just over two minutes into the game, Cam Braes was hit from behind by Dalhousie defenceman Patrick Arnold. Braes left the game with a neck injury and did not return. Arnold was given a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct. Just as the penalty expired, Florida native Colin Suellentrop received a pass from Adrian Robertson and found the back of the net with a slap shot for his first goal as a Varsity Red. The Tigers’ poor discipline continued and UNB went right back to the power play following the goal. Dana Fraser doubled UNB’s lead at 8:58 when he received a pass from Philippe Maillet and was able to bury the puck from the slot.
Following a slow start to the second period, UNB coach Gardiner MacDougall decided to call a timeout. The timeout worked to perfection as only seconds later Cam Brace put the Varsity Reds up 3-0. UNB was clearly in control of the game until a skirmish behind the play resulted in Dalhousie getting a full two-minute, two-man advantage with 3:47 remaining in the second. At 18:09, Andrew Rieder took a pass from Matt English and was able to put the Tigers on the board. With just seconds remaining in the period and after several chances in front of the net, Dan Joyce was able to bang it home to cut the UNB lead to just one goal.
In the third, and with 3:09 remaining in the contest, Halley fired a shot through traffic that found its way into the net, making it 4-2 UNB. The V-Reds held the Tigers to only four shots in the final period and outshot them 34-17 overall.
“Sometimes you need the ability to be able to win those third periods,” said MacDougall on Saturday. “If we can find a way to win third periods as we move forward here it will be huge for our group. These two points tonight are as equal as those two points last night.”
The Varsity Reds are back in action on Wednesday when they host the Université de Moncton. They play their final game of the regular season Friday at the University of Prince Edward Island.