Michel Belanger

OTTAWA (CIS) – Despite a rare loss over the weekend, the McGill Redmen managed to hold on to the number one position in the closest national poll of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s hockey season.

The Redmen (18-3-2), who last Tuesday moved past the UNB Varsity Reds for their first No. 1 ranking in five years, received eight first-place votes and 151 points this week from the 17-member media panel.

UNB (16-5-2) finished only one point back in the voting, thanks in part to four first-place nods, while the Western Mustangs (19-2-3) were a close third with 148 points, despite earning one more first-place vote than UNB (5).

The V-Reds had led the first 10 polls of the campaign before sliding to No. 3 last week. The Mustangs are down one spot in the new Top 10 after reaching a season-high No. 2 a week ago.

Rounding out the 12th media poll of the campaign are Moncton (16-7-0), which stays put in fourth place; No. 5 Alberta (16-6-2), No. 6 Saskatchewan (15-5-2) and No. 7 Manitoba (15-5-2), all up one position; No. 8 Saint Mary’s (15-7-2), up a pair; No. 9 Acadia (15-7-2), down four spots; as well as No. 10 UQTR (17-5-2), down one.

Top-ranked McGill opened the past weekend with a convincing 7-2 home win over Ottawa on Friday, but was upset 4-2 at Carleton the following night. The Redmen face a busy schedule this week with three games in five days, including a visit to archrival UQTR on Tuesday and home tilts against Concordia (12-10-2) on Friday and Carleton (13-9-3) on Saturday.

With two weeks to go in the OUA regular season, McGill holds a slim two-point advantage over UQTR in the East Division standings but also has one game in hand (5 to 4).

After losing four of its previous five contests, reigning University Cup champion UNB got back on track last weekend with a pair of home wins. The V-Reds dominated Acadia 7-1 before edging Dalhousie 3-2 in overtime. The V-Reds are set to face the same two opponents this weekend, this time on the road.

UNB currently leads the tight AUS race by two points over Moncton, Acadia and Saint Mary’s, with UPEI another two points back in fifth place.

A 3-2 shootout loss to Windsor last Thursday likely cost Western second place in the new Top 10. The Mustangs rebounded on Saturday however with a 4-0 shutout against Lakehead.

Western has already secured first place in the OUA West thanks to a nine-point lead over Lakehead and Waterloo with four games remaining in conference play.

In Canada West, the three-team race continues between Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Golden Bears currently hold a two-point advantage on their two rivals but only have four games to play, compared to six for both the Huskies and Bisons.

Last week, Alberta split a two-game series with UBC, Manitoba split a doubleheader against Lethbridge, while Saskatchewan enjoyed a break in the schedule. The Huskies and Bisons will try to make up ground this weekend when they host Calgary and UBC, respectively, for two-game sets, while the Bears are inactive.