University Cup champs No. 1 heading into December break

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Michel Belanger

OTTAWA (CIS) – The reigning national champion University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds top the CIS men’s hockey rankings for the eighth time in as many polls this season.

The V-Reds (11-2-1) received 14 of 17 first-place votes and 166 points from the national media panel in the final Top 10 of the fall semester. They have now held the pole position for 18 consecutive ranking periods dating back to last January.

The McGill Redmen (13-1-2) earned the remaining first-place nods and 147 points from the panel to maintain their No. 2 status for the sixth straight week.

UNB and McGill were two of only four teams to hold on to their previous positions in the new Top 10, along with No. 9 Manitoba (10-4-2) and No. 10 UQTR (13-5-1).

The No. 3 Western Ontario Mustangs (13-1-2) are up one spot; the No. 4 Saskatchewan Huskies (11-2-2) are up a pair; No. 5 Alberta (11-3-2) is down two; No. 6 Moncton (10-4-0) is down one; No. 7 Lakehead (13-3-0) is up one spot; and No. 8 Saint Mary’s (10-5-1) was unranked a week ago.

UNB survived a scare on Friday night in its final league game before the December break. Despite outshooting their cross-town rivals 43-16, the University Cup champs needed overtime to down St. Thomas and goaltender Charles Lavigne 3-2.

McGill was also pushed to the limit by a hot goalie in its final conference outing of the fall, edging RMC and netminder Matt Beirnes 3-2 despite a 43-20 advantage in shots on goal. The game was played in front of 3,780 fans Friday morning as part of a successful “Score with School” promotion by Rooths Sports Events that drew 68 busloads of students from 15 elementary and high schools from the Lester B. Pearson and English Montreal school boards. It marked the second-largest crowd since 1968 to see a university hockey game in Montreal and the biggest since Oct. 21, 2007 when 5,406 watched McGill defeat Concordia for the Ronald Corey Cup at the Bell Centre.

Western closed out the first portion of the regular season with a 4-3 shootout win over Waterloo and 6-4 victory against Guelph, while Saskatchewan easily swept provincial rival Regina 10-2 and 6-0.

At the break, UNB holds a two-point lead over Saint Mary’s atop the AUS standings, with two games in hand on the Huskies. McGill leads UQTR by a single point in the OUA East but has three more games remaining. Western tops Lakehead by two points in the OUA West. Saskatchewan and Alberta are tied atop the Canada West standings but the Huskies have a game in hand.

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