Halifax, NS- As quick as the AUS COVID-19 exhibition season began in February (then stopped for two weeks, then began again), some teams are winding down their schedules after another busy week in four sports.
Nova Scotia teams are wrapping up their seasons. The only Saint Mary’s Huskies team still in action is their women’s hockey team and they will wrap up their exhibition series with the Dalhousie Tigers on March 27.
The Acadia Axemen and Axewomen announced their swimming and men’s basketball teams are done for the year. The swimming team completed its final virtual trials early last week, the results of which will be available in the coming weeks as part of the 2021 U SPORTS University Swimming Challenge.
Both men’s and women’s basketball teams from Acadia faced their Dal counterparts Saturday afternoon. The men’s Tigers narrowly defeated the Axemen 83-79, with the game’s last two minutes of the game perhaps the season’s most exciting finish, up there with the UNB Reds/St. Thomas Tommies double-overtime game in women’s hockey. Results of the women’s game, held at Dal, weren’t released.
With SMU down to one team still playing and Acadia with at most two, Dal has fewer opponents left for the rest of this season. Although the Tigers’ plans are unclear for the next bit, their basketball and women’s volleyball teams have played Halifax ACAA schools like Mount St. Vincent and King’s College this winter, which could continue. In New Brunswick, schools that returned to play all played games last week and although further schedule details aren’t out yet, there’s no news yet on exactly how long they will play into the spring. We should know more in the coming days.
Weekend results roundup
This past week was the busiest in terms of the number of different sports played in both men’s and women’s competitions. Out of the four sports that returned over the past month and a half, only men’s hockey wasn’t played in the last seven days.
Namely, men’s volleyball action returned for the first time this season when UNB and St. Thomas met on March 16. For the Reds, it was their first game in 388 days. The Tommies, who dominated the ACAA last year, haven’t seen game action since March 13, 2020, while hosting the 2020 CCAA Men’s Volleyball National Championship. The Reds, an RSEQ team, defeated STU in all five sets they played.
For the Tommies’ Brendan Murphy, the chance to play a game was big for his team, given the difficulties of the COVID-19 season.
“We worked as a team tonight,” said Murphy. “We don’t always have everyone at practice, so even there we can’t play six on six, so it was nice to have the team together.”
On the women’s side, UNB and STU faced off for four sets, after playing five the week before. Although UNB swept the sets in this matchup, the Tommies made them hold on for dear life at times. The score of one set was 30-28, so it wasn’t an easy game by any means.
“They put up such a good fight. I’m not going to sit here and say that they let us have that win,” said the Reds’ Catherine Burns after the game, noting how close the match was at times.
Also in women’s volleyball action, Acadia hosted Dal on Friday night. The Axewomen put a scare into the eight-time defending AUS champs by winning a set, but the Tigers remained relentless and closed out the match in four sets. The ACAA’s Mount Allison Mounties and Crandall Chargers met on March 21, but no results were reported.
Just like last week, there were four women’s hockey games across the AUS. The Battle of Fredricton was held in two of them, with each team winning a game apiece.
The Friday night game saw STU prevail 3-1 after a back-and-forth third period. Among that action, the Tommies’ Olivia Reid scored early in the third, a goal which would stand as the eventual game-winner.
The next day, the Reds scored early and often, riding off the momentum of their first goal three minutes into the game and winning 4-2. Although STU couldn’t extend their win streak, goalie Caroline Pietroski had a busy night and kept her team in the game with 38 saves.
“I’m almost embarrassed sometimes because I don’t mention her, but she played very well tonight,” STU coach Peter Murphy said of Pietroski’s performance Saturday night.
Also on March 20, Dal defeated SMU by a 3-1 score, their first win since Jan. 18, 2020. No game details were available after the game but the Tigers scored two first-period goals and held their lead wire-to-wire.
Rounding out women’s hockey action from last weekend was the Mount Allison Mounties paying a trip to Moncton to play the Aigles Bleues. The home team was the only team to score in the 1-0 game when Isadora Quirion beat Mount A netminder Kaitlyn Evelyn with two minutes left in the second. Audrey Berthiaume registered the shutout for the Aigles Bleues, while Evelyn kept the Mounties alive all game. In the second period, Evelyn made an astonishing 17 saves in a 10-minute span, keeping the game scoreless.
Aside from the Dal/Acadia games Saturday, a slew of basketball games were played in New Brunswick over the weekend. Four were between Crandall and Mount A (two men’s, two women’s) but the schools didn’t report results. The only other game was between women’s STU and UNB, their second meeting this month. In what was another close game, UNB won 72-63. The Reds came out flying with an 8-0 run after tipoff, but STU had a 13-2 run of their own in the fourth to close the gap.
Additional AUS notes from the past week
-While Acadia’s swimming team and possibly others are winding down their years in the pool, other teams are just beginning. Last weekend, UNB’s swimming team ran some time trials at Saint John’s Canada Games Aquatic Centre, near their Saint John campus, with a lot of the swimmers making the hour trip from Fredricton. UNB is the third known AUS team (after Acadia and Dalhousie) to take part in official swimming time trials this season, although we’re not sure yet if those results will be part of the virtual U SPORTS competition this month. UNB said more details would be out soon.
-The St. FX X-Men men’s hockey team held their skills competition Thursday. A highlight was the hardest shot contest and winner Roddie Sandilands’s 95.6 mph rocket. That’s only 14 mph slower than Martin Frk’s world record set at the 2020 AHL All-Star Skills Competition. For an NHL comparison, Sandiland’s shot was roughly equal with Steven Stamkos’s in the 2019 NHL All-Star Skills Competition and 6 mph short of winner John Carlson. If you’re sitting behind the glass next year at an X-Men game, look out if any shots miss the net.
–The Guardian reported Thursday the Bell Aliant Centre in Charlottetown will receive $3 million in upgrades for its sound system, seating, dressing rooms, facilities and more. The funding, which the federal and provincial governments said were to help prepare for the 2023 Canada Games, would also mean renovations would be complete by the 2023 U Cup, slated to be hosted by UPEI at the Bell Aliant Centre. Depending on when renovations begin, they could also be ready for the 2022 U SPORTS Women’s Hockey Championships, but with the tournament less than a year away, time is of the essence.