HALIFAX, NS – The AUS men’s hockey semifinals didn’t kick off with the offensive fireworks seen in the quarterfinals, but the results of two defensive-dominated games were just as enthralling.
In one game, Matthew Philip of the Saint Francis Xavier X-Men jumped on a loose puck in the crease 5:04 into overtime to seal a 2-1 victory over the Saint Mary’s Huskies. It was Philip’s sixth game-winner of the year, regular season included, putting him two ahead of anyone else.
In the other semifinal, the UNB Reds dominated the Moncton Aigles Bleus from wire-to-wire. But thanks to Etienne Montpetit’s brilliance in goal, UdeM kept within reach until the very end. Ultimately, the Reds secured a grip on a 2-1 lead following a second-period goal from Brady Gilmour to take game one. Both of UNB’s goals came on the power play.
With the wins, the AUS’s top two teams can advance to the final, and secure U CUP berths at the end of the month at Acadia, with wins on Sunday night on the road.
UNB 2 Moncton 1
The Reds had the hand up on UdeM early and often in the first period of the series opener in Fredericton. They controlled the play nearly the whole frame, but Montpetit’s play in the Moncton net kept it scoreless to start.
That would change just over 10 minutes in when Sam Dove-McFalls, after being denied by Montpetit, found Ryan Roth wide open to his left. Roth had all day and put it home to open the scoring for UNB.
The Aigles Blues, however, got a spark of life five minutes later. On an innocent-looking line rush, a Vincent Deslauriers wrister ricocheted off Rylan Parenteau’s glove. The bounce came right to Nathael Roy, who was quick to jump on it for the tying marker. The teams finished the period tied at one.
UNB had most of the first frame in their control. But in the second, they had all of it. Beginning with a bombardment of Montpetit in the first two minutes out of the intermission, the Reds worked their way to a 15-2 shot differential over the ensuing 20 minutes. Montpetit finished with 39 saves on the night.
The only shot to find its way in, however, was Gilmour’s rocket over the Aigles Bleus netminder’s right shoulder. From a remarkable passing play off Ross MacDougall and Kade Landry’s sticks, UNB regained their lead.
Moncton had more of a pushback in the third period, sending six shorts in Parenteau’s direction. It wasn’t enough though to outduel the UNB attackers who played keep-away for large stretches of the final frame. By the time UdeM secured enough possession, it was too late.
Parenteau sealed the win in net with 15 saves, four of those coming on Deslauriers shots. UNB’s Dove-McFalls couldn’t score on seven shots on net but contributed to his team’s dominance at the faceoff dot. The Reds gathered 44 faceoff wins and 71 per cent success rate en route to a masterful possession game.
Game two goes in Moncton Sunday night at 7 p.m. local time.
StFX 2 SMU 1 (OT)
The de facto Nova Scotia final began with an onslaught of chances from StFX. After getting that early burst of energy out, each team sat back a bit offensively. In each net, Justin Sumarah and Joseph Raaymakers had a couple of crucial saves each. However, each team played to smother the other and reduce chances. Shots were just 7-6 StFX heading to the rooms.
The second period was still defensive-minded, but StFX got a push on with chances midway through the period. But a few solid saves from Sumarah did well to eliminate those threats and maintain a scoreless game after 40 minutes.
It only took 1:23 of third-period play for Liam Hawel to break into the SMU zone and toe-drag the puck around a sliding SMU defender, before beating Sumarah glove-side with a powerful wrister.
The AUS MVP gave the hosts the first goal of the game, but 3:20 later, a 2-on-1 saw Logan DeNoble set up Dawson Theede for a wide-open net and goal, knotting the game up yet again. SMU didn’t push a ton offensively after that, but Sumarah kept the increasing X chances at bay through the rest of the third.
StFX would carry their momentum into the overtime period, hardly allowing their Haligonian opponents time in their zone and preventing any Huskies shots. With the midway point of the extra stanza nearing, Matthew Struthers led the zone entry as he did all game. His shot through a crowd was bobbled by Sumarah and rolled off to his left, where Philip was waiting. The one to deliver clutch plays for the X-Men all year, Philip ended it in overtime.
Remarkably, Sumarah made exactly 39 saves for the third time this postseason. He has played all three games for SMU. In the other net, Raaymakers was solid with 24 stops to help StFX push for the win in the game’s second half.
The teams meet again at the Dauphinee Centre in Halifax, on Sunday night at 7 p.m. local.