The UNB Varsity Reds men’s hockey team is a win away from clinching a spot in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championship.
Cam Brace’s goal at 11:41 of the third period proved to be the winner as the V-Reds edged the StFX X-Men 2-1 in game two of the Atlantic University Sport men’s hockey semifinal, giving UNB a 2-0 series lead.
The series now shifts to Antigonish where game three will be played on Sunday night at 7 p.m. If necessary, a game four would be played on Monday at StFX while a game five would be played on Thursday at UNB.
Jordan Murray had UNB’s other goal while David Shantz made 18 saves in the win. Ted Stephens scored for StFX and Drew Owsley made 26 saves in the loss.
The Varsity Reds got off to slow start, something head coach Gardiner MacDougall hopes his team can improve on come Sunday.
“We can be better in the first. I thought we got more to how we want to play in the second and then it was a tight battle in the third,” said MacDougall.
“These are good experiences for our guys to go through. Sometimes, a good scare is a good thing for us and we had a good scare tonight. We’ve got to get ourselves ready for Sunday.”
A night after the two teams combined for 30 shots in the first period, UNB and StFX only registered a total of 14 on Friday. Both squads were awarded power play opportunities but neither was able to convert on them.
The best chance of the period came when the Varsity Reds coughed up the puck at the blue line, allowing Kristoff Kontos to go in alone and fire a backhand shot wide of the net.
In the second, Kontos had another great chance for the X-Men but was robbed by the pad of Shantz. A few minutes later at 8:26, Murray finished off a nice passing play by beating Owsley with a quick wrist shot off the bar and in to make it 1-0 UNB.
With less than six minutes to play in the period, the X-Men got the puck behind Shantz and into the crease area but the V-Reds goaltender managed to keep it out. Shortly after at the other end – and with Matt Petgrave in the box – Taylor MacDougall found himself alone in front of the StFX net but fired the puck high.
Despite outshooting the X-Men 14-4 in the middle stanza, the Varsity Reds only led by one entering the third.
In the opening minute of the third, Michael Kirkpatrick had the puck and was alone in front of the UNB net but sent a backhand shot wide. The X-Men were awarded a power play at 3:52, and just after it expired, Stephens put in a rebound to tie the game at 1-1.
The Varsity Reds retook the lead for good at 11:41 when Brace fired an innocent looking wrist shot that was deflected by something. The shot fooled Owsley, making it 2-1 UNB.
The X-Men pulled their goaltender with 1:05 to play but could not net an equalizer.
Meanwhile, in the other AUS semifinal series, the Acadia Axemen and Saint Mary’s Huskies are tied 1-1. Game three of that series takes place on Sunday night in Halifax.