For an eighth straight season, the UNB Varsity Reds men’s hockey team has finished on top of the Atlantic University Sport standings.
UNB clinched the regular season title with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Université de Moncton Aigles Bleus last Wednesday at the Aitken Centre. Jordan Murray scored the game winner 10 seconds into OT. Rob Mignardi and Francis Beauvillier netted goals in regulation time while David Shantz made 19 saves in the victory.
On Friday, the V-Reds closed out their regular season in Charlottetown, falling 4-2 to the UPEI Panthers. The Panthers were up 4-0 midway through the second when Dylan Willick finally opened the scoring for UNB. Alex Wall scored a power play goal in the third period but, despite outshooting UPEI 12-6 in the final frame, that was as close as the Varsity Reds could get. Backup Chris Carrozzi made 24 saves in the loss.
The loss to the Panthers means the V-Reds finish the regular season with a 22-4-2 record for 46 points. 22 wins is the fewest victories UNB has had since the 2011-12 season when they recorded 20. The reason for that can mostly be attributed to the league’s competitiveness this season, which many conference coaches say is at its highest in years.
The standings certainly back up that claim. Acadia finished in second, just three points back of UNB. Saint Mary’s finished third, two points back of Acadia. Teams three through six are separated by 11 points.
Thanks to finishing in first, UNB will have a bye through the first round. The team’s playoff run begins on Thursday, Feb. 19 and Friday, Feb. 21 at the Aitken Centre against the lowest seeded team that makes it through the first round.
Acadia, thanks to a win over the X-Men on the final day of the regular season, has the other bye. Saint Mary’s will play Moncton in one quarterfinal while StFX will host UPEI in the other.
The quarterfinals will be best-of-three, semifinals best of five and the AUS Championship will be best-of-three. Two other AUS teams will join host StFX at this year’s University Cup in Halifax, putting greater significance on the semifinals.
UNB was eliminated in last year’s semifinals, losing a best-of-five series in four games to the Saint Mary’s Huskies. The Acadia Axemen went on to defeat the Huskies in the AUS final.