HALIFAX (CIS) - Sparked by a natural hat-trick from Philippe Halley, the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds (#5) will return to the CIS University Cup title game, for a second consecutive season, after earning a 4-0 semi-final victory over the Saint Mary's Huskies (#8) Saturday evening at Scotiabank Centre.
"He gets better every game and he is a key difference maker for us," veteran Varsity Reds' head coach Gardiner MacDougall said, after the game, of his third-year forward.
As for the win, he added "we were pretty solid right from the goalie out."
"Etienne Marcoux made some big saves for us, especially during the 5-on-3," MacDougall noted.
When asked about his scoring touch in the tournament, including back-to-back three-goal efforts, Halley said he was "getting the bounces right now."
"It is a team effort. My team-mates are getting me the puck in great spots, so it is nothing complicated; I just have to bury the shots," he added.
The Varsity Reds took a 1-0 advantage at the 3:37 mark of the first period.
Christopher Clapperton, who was charging towards the net, batted a knee-high pass from along the boards behind Saint Mary's goaltender Cole Cheveldave. Cameron Braes and Philippe Maillet garnered the assists.
A couple minutes after he opened the scoring, Clapperton almost doubled the lead, when he whistled a shot over the crossbar behind Cheveldave.
The Huskies had their best chance of the first 20 minutes, on the power play, when Anthony Repaci re-directed a point shot that hit the cross bar behind Marcoux.
Again, with the man advantage, Saint Mary's had a chance to knot the affair, but Marcoux made a blocker stop on Michael D'Orazio.
The Varsity Reds outshot the Huskies 11-5 in the first period.
Early in the second period, Jamie Doornbosch fed Stephen Gillard in the slot, who tested Marcoux with a one-time slap shot, but the freshman UNB goalie made a sparkling glove side.
The Varsity Reds tried to double their lead a short time later, but Cheveldave blocked an attempt from Halley.
On a 5-on-3 man advantage, the Huskies got a point-shot from D'Orazio that Marcoux saved, while Stephen MacAulay ripped the rebound over the net and into the crowd.
Later, with a one-man edge, Kyle Pereira snapped a shot through a screen, but Marcoux was able to smother the puck.
Midway through the second period, Calder Brooks lugged the puck in front for a quick wrist shot, but Marcoux snatched the shot with a lightning quick glove hand.
On a UNB power play, the Huskies tightened, with Cheveldave not facing any dangerous shots.
A short time later, Halley set-up Alex Dubeau in the slot, who took a shot, but Cheveldave made the blocker save.
Late in the period, with UNB pressing, Tyler Carroll made a cross-ice pass in the offensive zone to Halley, who beat Cheveldave short side with 17 seconds remaining until intermission.
The Varsity Reds led 2-0 after two periods.
The teams collected eight shots apiece during the middle stanza.
In the first five minutes of the third period, the Huskies had an opportunity, on the power play, to slice the UNB lead in half, but they didn't threaten against Marcoux.
A short time later, after a pair of Huskies' penalties within two seconds, the Varsity Reds were on a 5-on-3 power play, with just more than 13 minutes remaining in regulation.
On the man advantage, Cameron Brace fed CIS defenseman of year Jordan Murray for a one-timer from the point, but Cheveldave made the save. A few seconds later, he stymied Rob Mignardi with the trapper.
Shortly after the Huskies killed the penalties, Halley broke in alone and roofed a backhander over Cheveldave's glove. The unassisted tally came at 8:49, giving UNB a three-goal edge.
At 12:32, on the power play, Halley notched the hat-trick - and sixth goal of the tournament - when he made no mistake from the top of the slot. Randy Gazzola and Francis Beauvillier chipped in helpers to make it 4-0.
"It is certainly not what we wanted to have happen," Trevor Steinburg, Saint Mary's Huskies head coach, said.
He added it was a tough time to have an "off game," especially coming off a "big high" after defeating the CIS #1 ranked UQTR Patriotes in quarter-final play. He shouldered the blame for the loss.
"In the end, they were better than us, and they came out on top," D'Orazio added.
Marcoux made 13 saves for the win, while Cheveldave turned aside 28 shots in the loss.
Halley was named player of the game for the Varsity Reds, while Matt Tipoff earned the honour for the Huskies.
The Varsity Reds will face-off against the AUS rival StFX X-Men, in a re-match of the AUS championship series, for gold Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ADT.
The Huskies will face-off against the Saskatchewan Huskies for bronze Sunday at 2 p.m. ADT.
The championship match-ups will be broadcast live on Sportsnet 360 and TVA Sports (TVA Sports 2 for championship final).
With files from Canadian Interuniversity Sport.
Photo by Mona Ghiz.