Varsity Reds come out on top in battle of top U Sports teams

Photo courtesy Nic Latulippe
Photo courtesy Nic Latulippe

Antigonish, N.S. - In a battle of the top-ranked team in U Sport hockey, the visiting UNB Varsity Reds (#1, 9-0-2) skated to a 7-3 victory over the StFX X-Men (#2, 8-4) Friday night at the Keating Centre.

The Varsity Reds jumped to a 3-0 advantage, after the first period, on goals from Philippe Halley (Quebec City, QC), captain Cam Critchlow (Summerside, PEI) and Philippe Maillet (Terrebonne, QC).

At 4:30, Halley re-directed a point shot from defenseman Jordan Murray (Riverview, NB), which beat a screened Chase Marchand (Halifax, NS). Francis Beauvillier (St. Hyacinthe, QC) collected the other helper.

Both teams came up empty on their first power-play opportunities, which came before the midway point of the opening 20 minutes.

X-Men captain Eric Locke (Toronto, ON) garnered the best scoring chance for his team, in the early minutes, but Etienne Marcoux (Terrebonne, QC) smothered the hard slap shot that came, off the rush, from just inside the blue line.

At 13:56, the Varsity Reds doubled their edge, when defenseman Matt Petgrave (Brampton, ON) kept control of the puck, before putting a point shot on Marchand, which was deflected by Critchlow from the lip of the crease. The X-Men freshman got a piece of the re-direction, but he could not keep it from trickling over the goal line. Cameron Brace (Markham, ON) chipped in the other helper.

On a late power play, with nine second remaining, Maillet beat Marchand glove side with a blistering shot. Beauvillier and Randy Gazzola (Thorold, ON) assisted.

In the opening five minutes of the second period, the X-Men came out buzzing, with defenseman Jagger Dirk collecting the first quality scoring chance, but Marcoux made the stop on his wrap-around attempt.

UNB's sophomore goalie kept the X-Men off the score sheet, with right pad saves on shots from Nathan Pancel (Ottawa, ON) and Matt Needham (Penticton, BC).

The Varsity Reds had the first power play of the middle stanza, but X-Men forward Mark Tremaine (Dartmouth, NS) generated the best scoring opportunity. He broke in on a partial breakaway, but Marcoux made a chest save on a hard slap shot.

On a 5-on-3 man advantage, the most dangerous X-Men chance came off the stick of sophomore defenseman Max Iafrate (Livonia, MI), who laced a blast, but Marcoux made a stellar glove save.

The Varsity Reds almost made it 4-0, but Marchand shot out the glove hand to snag a shot from Murray.

At 17:06, on the power play, Iafrate solved Marcoux, when he laced a stick-side shot, just inside the far goal post. The marker was the culmination of a passing play from Needham and Pancel.

On a UNB man advantage, with less than one minute remaining in the second period, Dirk made a short-handed rush for the X-Men, which led to goal mouth chances for Adam Stevens (Bedford, NS) and Anthony Difruscia (Thorold, ON), but Marcoux slammed the door.

Seconds later, at 19:41, Gazzola found the back of the net, with a wrist shot, on the power play. Beauvillier and Stephen Anderson (Morell, PEI) assisted.

Early in the third period, at 5:40, the Varsity Reds took a 5-1 lead on a power play goal from Petgrave. Gazzola and Christopher Caissy (Campbellton, NB) notched the helpers.

At 7:05, off a centering pass from Tremaine, Michael Clarke (London, ON) put one top shelf over Marcoux to make it 5-2. Holden Cook (Oshawa, ON) added the other assist on the shorthanded tally.

Less than one minute later, at 7:55, freshman Mark Simpson (Fredericton, NB) regained the four-goal UNB lead, on the man advantage, with an assist from Anderson.

At 12:29, on the power play, Cameron Brace (Markham, ON) completed a tic-tac-toe passing play from Caissy and Maillet to make it 7-2.

Only 22 seconds later, at 12:51, while shorthanded, Needham rounded out the scoring, from Bryson Cianfrone (Stoney Creek, ON) and Aaron Hoyles (Gander, NL), to cut the UNB lead to 7-3.

Marcoux made 22 saves for the win, while Marchand turned aside 35 shots in the loss.

The Subway player of the game and first star was Gazzola, while Petgrave and Needham garnered second and third-star selections, respectively.

Both teams will be back on the ice Saturday, Nov. 12, when the X-Men host the U Sport ninth-ranked UPEI Panthers, while the Varsity Reds will visit Halifax to face the Dalhousie Tigers.

Puck drop for both match-ups is 7 p.m.