New Brunswick scored early and often, capturing a spot in the University Cup final with an 8-3 victory.
Both the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds and the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Patriotes came out fired up for the final round-robin game of the University Cup. With a combination of six goals in the first nine minutes of the game, the teams set a high tempo that UNB kept going while the Patriotes fell flat.
New Brunswick looked as if they were going to put the game out of reach early when they went ahead 2-0 in the opening two and a half minutes of the match. Getting traffic in front of Patriotes goaltender Marc-Antoine Gélinas, UNB’s third-year forward Nick MacNeil started the scoring craze by picking up a loose rebound and burying the puck in the back of the net.
The Varsity Reds went up by two as Bryce Swan showed off his hand-eye coordination by hitting a rebounded puck out of the air and past Gélinas. Gélinas allowed two goals on the first three shots he faced.
It didn’t take long, however, for momentum to swing to the Patriotes side. UQTR responded with three goals in the span of five minutes and eleven seconds. Spreading the puck around, the Patriotes nabbed goals from Félix Petit, Pierre-Olivier Morin and Maxime Paquet-Gravel to take a 3-2 lead only 8:20 into the game.
“We got off to a very positive start,” Reds head coach Gardiner MacDougall said. But “give full credit to our opponent that rebounded and took the lead.”
New Brunswick went back to work though, and they levelled the game before the end of the first period with a goal from Tyler Carroll.
Dion Campbell regained the lead for the second-seeded Reds in the middle frame. Gélinas blocked a wrist shot from MacNeil but couldn’t corral the rebound. Campbell was waiting at the doorstep of the net to easily shovel the puck across the goal line.
MacNeil scored his second goal of the night midway through the second period, putting UNB ahead 5-3. He added an assist to complete a three-point night.
“We managed to get back… and I thought we had an outstanding second period. We found another level on our puck pursuit [and] our puck pressure,” Gardiner said following the game.
The teams exchanged shots back and forth through the first half of the third period before the Reds found their scoring groove again. With 13:24 remaining in the final frame, Carroll potted his second of the night by stealing the puck from UQTR’s breakout attempt. Carroll spun around to face the net and ripped a wrister top shelf before Gelinas could react.
Down 6-2, the Patriotes appeared frustrated and tired. Meanwhile New Brunswick continued to earn their spot in the University Cup final.
The Reds scored two more goals and held off a late Patriotes five-on-three attempt to finalize the five-goal spread.
Reds netminder Daniel LaCosta turned away 19 of the 22 shots he faced while Gélinas got the hook after he let in eight goals on 51 shots. Guillaume Nadeau finished the game in net for UQTR but faced no shots.
UNB now advances to the University Cup final against the Saint Mary’s Huskies, who won pool A earlier today. The game will be a rematch of the Atlantic University Sport conference final held in February. In that three-game series UNB bested Saint Mary’s two games to one.
“That was an exciting series, but that’s the past,” MacDougall said. “Right now it’s [about] bringing your best tomorrow.”
MacDougall recognized the Atlantic rivalry between the teams and thinks it will be brought to a new level as they battle for the nation’s highest university hockey honour Sunday at 5:30 p.m at Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon.
Photo: Pete Yee