(HALIFAX, NS) The two-time, defending University Cup champion UNB Varsity Reds are through to the Atlantic University Sport final for the fourth straight year.
Chris Clapperton(Cap d’Espoir, QC) scored twice while Stephen Anderson(Morell, PE) and Randy Gazzola(Thorold, ON) each had three assists as the Varsity Reds scored a 6-2 win over the Saint Mary’s Huskies, Monday night, taking their Subway AUS best of five semi-final series three games to none.
“It was a hard-fought series,” said Varsity Reds head coach Gardiner MacDougall. “I think it’s a foundation for both teams moving forward.”
Matt Murphy(Woodstock, ON), Kris Bennett(Brampton, ON), Dylan Willick(Prince George, BC) and Tyler Boland(St. John’s, NL) each had a goal and an assist in the win.
Alex Dubeau(Mascouche, QC) stopped 23 of the 25 shots he faced in the UNB net.
“It was exactly what our club needed,” MacDougall said. “We had a great opponent and we found a way. It was good for our guys, we’ve got a lot of new members who got a taste of what it takes, the work they need to put in and the grit level needed to compete in the AUS.”
Aaron Berisha(Mississauga, ON) and Stephen Johnson(Moncton, NB) scored for Saint Mary’s.
“We did not have the night we wanted,” said Huskies head Trevor Stienburg. “We had a better showing in Fredericton. We believe in each other, and we’re going to have to be able to hit the reset button pretty quick to be ready (for the next series).”
Eric Brassard(St. Hubert, QC) got the start in net for SMU, but was pulled early in the second period, after allowing three goals on 11 shots. Cole Cheveldave(Calgary, AB) came on in relief and gave up three goals on 12 shots.
“I think it’s safe to say that our goaltenders struggled tonight,” said Stienburg. “They’re both great goalies. It’s a bit of an anomaly, but it is what it is. You don’t define anybody by one game.”
UNB opened the scoring when Murphy picked off a pass at the Huskies’ blue line before potting the only goal of the first period.
The Varsity Reds then exploded in the second.
Clapperton made it 2-0 just 1:16 in.
Bennett pushed it to 3-0 at the 4:00 mark.
Willick stretched it to 4-0 UNB at 8:02, and Clapperton’s second of the game made it 5-0 at 14:28.
Berisha put Saint Mary’s on the board with a power play goal at 16:19, and he had a chance at another in the final seconds of the period, but Dubeau came up with a big pad save.
Boland scored to make it 6-1 14:01 into the third period, before Johnson’s goal with just under two minutes to play.
SMU ended up winning the shot battle 25-23, but it was clearly UNB in control throughout.
The Varsity Reds will face either the St FX X-Men or the Acadia Axemen in the AUS Championship.
The X-Men forced a deciding game in that semi-final series with a 4-3 win on Monday.
Game five goes Thursday, in Antigonish, at 7:00pm.
The winner joins UNB in the conference final. The loser will face Saint Mary’s in a consolation series to determine the third AUS team in the field at the 2018 Cavendish Farms University Cup, being hosted by the Varsity Reds.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel, with nationals in Fredericton this year and we’re going to have three battle tested teams from the AUS,” said MacDougall.
RECAP BY: Cam Honey-Webb/for SMU Athletics
PHOTOS BY: Nick Pearce/for SMU Athletics