A three-goal third period led the UNB Varsity Reds to a 5-2 victory over the StFX X-Men in game one of the Atlantic University Sport men’s hockey semifinal on Thursday night at the Aitken Centre.
The return of forward Tyler Carroll, who hadn’t played since mid-January, seemed to spark the Varsity Reds offensively. Carroll had a goal and two assists while line mate Came Braes had two goals. Francis Beauviller and Cam Critchlow also scored for UNB.
“He’s obviously a tremendous player. He adds a different element to our line with me and [Cam] Brace,” said Braes about Carroll’s return. “He’s just a big body. He can skate and he can shoot. He really helps our top six out when he’s in our lineup and makes us deeper throughout our entire forward unit.”
Goaltender David Shantz had a strong performance, making 26 saves in the victory. He was kept busy thanks to StFX’s seven power play opportunities.
“Game one is such an important game in a series – especially when you’ve been off for a bit,” said UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall. “I thought our penalty kill was outstanding and David Shantz made key saves when he had to.”
The X-Men had goals from Zackary MacQueen and Eric Locke. Goaltender Drew Owsley made 43 saves in the loss.
The first period featured a great pace with the two teams combining for 30 shots on goal. The X-Men would open the scoring with three minutes remaining in the period when MacQueen was able to jam the puck past Shantz.
It didn’t take long for the Varsity Reds to respond. Just 39 seconds after StFX’s goal, Carroll finished off a nice passing play and beat Owsley with a wrist shot from the slot.
The V-Reds had plenty of quality chances in the second period but had a hard time converting them into goals. In the first minute, Philippe Maillet fired a shot from the slot that hit both posts and stayed out. Later on, Carroll centered the puck for Maillet but Owsley was able to trap the puck under his pads. With fewer than six minutes to play in the period, Rob Mignardi sent a shot past the X-Men goaltender but hit the post.
Finally, on a power play at 16:12, Jordan Murray sent a point shot wide of the net. The puck bounced off the boards to Carroll who backhanded a pass to a wide-open Braes who gave the Varsity Reds a 2-1 lead.
A Colin Suellentrop tripping penalty that carried over into the third period proved costly for UNB. Just 16 seconds into the frame, Locke scored to tie things up at 2-2.
The Varsity Reds would quickly jump back in front though. At 2:01, Alex Wall found an open Braes who fired a bullet past a screened Owsley to make it 3-2 UNB. Then at 3:46, Beauvillier found the top corner of the StFX net to give the Reds a 4-2 advantage.
UNB controlled much of the third period and put it way at 17:27. On a power play, Wall fed the puck from behind the net to Critchlow in front, making it a 5-2 final.
Game two of the best-of-five series takes place tonight at 7 p.m. at the Aitken Centre. The series then shifts to StFX for game three on Sunday.