Yet another hockey season is underway and the UNB Varsity Reds men’s hockey team has kicked it off with yet another emphatic win over a conference rival—but the two-time defending national champions know there is much to learn and improve on if they want to win another title.
This fact was evident at times throughout UNB’s 6-2 victory over the University of Moncton Aigles Bleus on Wednesday night at the Aitken Centre, where the V-Reds dominated large portions of the game but still showed some areas for improvement.
UNB started the game on a high after pre-game ceremonies saw the unveiling of a Varsity Reds 2016-17 national championship banner to the 2417 fans in attendance. They were able to turn their excitement into early momentum as third-year forward Stephen Anderson netted two goals in the first ten minutes. The game began to look like an early blowout.
Moncton had other plans, however, as they quickly called a timeout in an effort to halt the V-Reds’ momentum. UNB also began getting themselves into penalty trouble, picking up five minor penalties in the final ten minutes of the first period.
Aigles Bleus forward Jean-Sebastien Fournier was able to take advantage of the shift in momentum with a power-play goal late in the first. Justin Vanier-Guenette then added another just two minutes into the second period to even the game up at two all.
“I think we were just a little lenient after those first two goals; we thought it would be a quiet night and everything was going to go our way,” said Anderson after the game.
With the game tied and the momentum now favouring Moncton, UNB showed why they have been champions for the past two years by regaining control of the game and allowing only two shots-on-goal against them in the entire second period.
Fourth-year forward Chris Caissy was able to re-establish the V-Reds’ two goal lead with a pair of goals late in the second period, before Stephen Anderson added another in the final minute to secure himself a hat-trick and give his team the security of a 5-2 lead.
“We’re the type of team that when we get breaks we like to pounce on them, so I think that showed when we scored,” said Anderson, who was named the game’s first star.
The third period saw veteran forward Mike Thomas add one more goal to make it 6-2—but also saw some more undisciplined play from the V-Reds as they were penalized six more times, with three of their players receiving ten minute misconducts.
While nobody on the Varsity Reds is too concerned about taking a few too many penalties in the first game of the season—in a game that they won by a large margin—the players are clearly aware of the issue and determined to keep it from becoming an exploitable weakness.
“One of the biggest things for us is our discipline, and I think it was pretty evident we had way too many minors,” said Caissy, adding, “If you give a team that many power play chances, they’re going to put one in.”
New captain Dylan Willick agreed with his teammate, saying, “It was a bit of a learning experience for us; we need to learn right away not to give them that opportunity to get back into the game, and once we get our foot on the gas just keep it on the gas.”