Michel Belanger

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

The V-Reds (13-2-1) received 14 of 17 first-place votes and 167 points from the national media panel in the first Top 10 of 2012 to keep their lead on the McGill Redmen (15-1-2), who earned the remaining first-place nods and 146 points from the panel to maintain their No. 2 status for the seventh straight ranking period.

Third-ranked Western Ontario (15-1-2), No. 6 Moncton (11-5-0), No. 7 Lakehead (15-3-0), No. 9 Manitoba (12-4-2) and No. 10 UQTR (14-5-1) also stay put in the new Top 10. Alberta (13-3-2) moves past Saskatchewan (13-3-2) in fifth place, while previously unranked Acadia (11-5-1) earns the No. 8 spot.

UNB went a perfect 4-for-4 since the last weekly poll in early December. The V-Reds outscored Ottawa 7-4 and 8-4 over the holidays in a pair of non-conference contests in Fredericton, and then resumed AUS play this past weekend with home wins over StFX, 5-2, and Saint Mary’s, 3-2. The University Cup champs are set to battle Saint Mary’s (10-7-1) and StFX (5-9-3) again on Friday and Saturday, this time in Nova Scotia.

While UNB now holds a four-point lead atop the Atlantic conference rankings, McGill and Western are tied atop the OUA overall standings with 10 games remaining in the regular season, and Alberta and Saskatchewan are dead even in Canada West, also with 10 matches left.

McGill resumed conference play last weekend with home victories over Ottawa, 3-1, and Ryerson, 5-2.

Western kept pace with the Redmen thanks to a 7-4 defeat of Laurier on home ice and a 4-2 win at York.

Alberta swept a home-and-away doubleheader against archrival Calgary, 3-2 and 4-2.

Saskatchewan was the only Top 5 team to leave points on the ice last week, splitting a two-game series with Lethbridge. The Huskies took the opener 5-2 before dropping a 3-2 decision.

Alberta visits Saskatchewan in Saskatoon this weekend for a crucial two-game set.