“That’s why I signed here”: Reds capture 5th straight AUS title

FREDERICTON, NB. – In the UNB Reds’ long, prestigious history of AUS dominance, they have never won the conference in five straight seasons. Until now.

After dropping game two in double overtime, the Reds took full control at home in game three of the AUS men’s hockey final, outlasting the Saint Mary’s Huskies 4-1 to keep the banner in Fredericton. Even during extended stretches of play where SMU held possession and control, UNB still overwhelmed the visitors — especially on special teams. 

“That’s why I signed here. I was expecting to win,” said UNB’s Benjamin Corbeil to the AUSTV broadcast post-game. The rookie recorded two assists in game three. “My expectation is [now] reality. I’m proud of everyone.”

The Reds struck early in the rubber match of the conference championship. Because of an early penalty from SMU’s Cameron Pound, UNB built some momentum on their first power play of the game. Simon Pinard had a couple of chances early in the man advantage. But finally, Adam McCormick set him up in the trigger spot and he blasted it past SMU’s Jeremy Helvig. A looming threat all series, the rookie finally buried his first of the final. Pinard was awarded the AUS playoff MVP honour post-game.

Latest in the period, another rookie found the back of the net: SMU’s Connor Olson. From nearly the same spot he scored from in game one, his shot beat Samuel Richard — thanks in part to a brilliant Joel Bishop screen — for his second of the series and a tie game after one period. 

In the second, the Huskies had four power plays but with no luck on any. At the end of the first one, Isaac Nurse went on a breakaway — only to be stopped by Helvig. However, UNB’s Justin Nolet got that back at 9:25 of the period on a brilliant pass from Emmett Sproule. It was Nolet’s first of the playoffs in his second postseason game. 

Minutes later, another big first goal of the series was scored. Brady Gilmour — UNB’s regular season leading scorer — went upstairs on Helvig for the 3-1 goal, breaking a three-game drought.

SMU came close to the tie later, but even with a five-on-three Huskies power play, the Reds said no. Thanks to penalties, most of the period’s second half was in Richard’s end. But the goalie didn’t cough up another all night, stopping 20 of 21 shots. UNB had 39 shots, with Helvig stopping 35.

“I’m so proud of my roommate,” Corbeil said of Richard. “I hope he’s going to play like that in nationals.” 

The Huskies also had a big start to the third period, but some important early saves from the rookie UNB stopper kept it at 3-1. That was the score until SMU’s Caelan McPhee took a boarding penalty. Ross MacDougall would make them pay on a beautiful move — stepping around a sliding Huskies blocker and beating Helvig from the top of the slot. That effectively sealed yet another title for UNB, in front of a sold-out Aitken Centre.

Even with UNB’s game three dominance, it may not be the last time the two sides meet. Both teams travel to Charlottetown next week for the 2023 U CUP at UPEI. The tournament takes place from March 16-19. The Reds dropped their U CUP quarterfinal last year to the Ryerson Rams (now TMU Bold) while SMU didn’t qualify. The Huskies won their only game in their last nationals appearance: the cancelled 2020 U CUP.


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