The UNB men’s hockey team showed off their resilience this weekend, responding to a serious injury to a star player by picking up back-to-back dominant wins.
The V-Reds kicked off Staff and Faculty Appreciation Weekend with a rematch against the Acadia Axemen who defeated the V-Reds the prior week by a score of 3-2.
With UNB looking to even the score against the team that handed their first loss of the season and Acadia’s reputation as one of the most physical teams in the AUS, the game promised to be an energetic and emotional affair.
However, much of the energy was sucked out of the arena less than two minutes into the game when third year forward Christopher Clapperton was seriously injured by a hit along the boards by Acadia defenseman Alexander Lepkowski.
Clapperton, who entered the game leading his team in points, remained motionless on the ice for several tense moments before being removed by stretcher and taken to the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital, where he remained overnight for observation. He was released early Saturday.
Lepkowski received a five minute boarding penalty and a game misconduct for the hit.
Kris Bennett was able to score on the subsequent powerplay to give the Varsity Reds a 1-0 lead. UNB ended the first period with a 16-4 advantage in shots.
Acadia forward Boston Leier evened up the score early in the second period but the V-Reds refused to give up their momentum and Bennett responded with his second goal of the night minutes later to regain the lead.
UNB would hold onto this lead for the remainder of the game with Bennett adding three assists in the third as the V-Reds won 7-2. Bennett finished the game with five points and an impressive +6 rating before being named the game’s first star.
After the game, Varsity Reds head coach Gardiner MacDougall said that hits like the one received by Clapperton are the type they are trying to remove from the sport, but he was impressed by the way his team responded to a difficult situation.
Acadia head coach Darren Burns made it clear that while his foremost concern was with the wellbeing of Clapperton, he did not feel there was any intent to injure by Lepkowski.
“I don’t think (Lepkowski) was trying to track him or anything like that. I know (Lepkowski felt) absolutely terrible as soon as it happened. You just hate to see that in sports.”
Kris Bennett followed up his five point night with another strong performance during UNB’s 5-1 victory over the Saint Mary’s University Huskies Saturday night, scoring his fifth goal of the season and posting a total of seven shots on goal.
Rookie defenseman Tristan Pomerleau picked up three primary assists on the night and was named the first star of the game.
With another convincing win in the books, Bennett was happy with the way his team has rebounded from their loss last weekend to Acadia as well as the adversity of losing a key player to injury.
“Obviously last weekend wasn’t what we wanted so we came into this weekend much more hungry, we just worked a lot harder. (It was) a big team effort. Obviously (Clapperton) is not in the lineup so we’re playing for him as well.”