Photo credit Brian Smith

ISN – (FREDERICTON, N.B.) The UNB Varsity Reds men’s hockey team took the first game of the best-of-five Subway AUS semi-final series against the StFX X-Men, topping the X-Men 5-2 on home ice.

Fourth-ranked StFX came into this series after topping UPEI in two straight games in the best two-of-three quarter-final, by two goals each time. First-ranked UNB came into this series after a first round bye and a 4-0 record over the X-Men in regular season play.

Everyone was expecting a typical tight playoff game, and the first period started off just that way. It almost looked like the period would end scoreless, until Zackary MacQueen (Woodstock, ON) flipped a shot toward the net that caught UNB goalie David Shantz a bit flat-footed and the X-Men were up 1-0 with three minutes to go. Assists went to Steven Kuhn (Oyen, AB) and Kristoff Kontos (Penetanguishene, ON).

It didn’t take UNB long to tie it up, though. Just 39 seconds later, with the V-Reds racing down the ice, Tyler Carroll (Strathroy, ON) found the net on a quick shot from the slot. It’s Carroll’s first game back from injury. Randy Gazzola (Thorold, ON) and Cameron Brace (Toronto, ON) had the assist.

The second period opened up as a tight game again. It would take just over sixteen minutes for the scoreboard to light up again. UNB took the lead after Cam Braes(Shawinigan Lake, BC) took advantage of a nice setup in front of the net to get one past X-Men goalie Drew Owsley. Assists on the shorthanded goal went to Jordan Murray (Moncton, NB) and Carroll, and the V-Reds were up 2-1 as the period came to a close.

The third period started fast and furious, with StFX on the power play and ready to answer back. They did just that 16 seconds after the puck dropped, when Eric Locke (Toronto, ON) got behind a tap-in off a set-up from Robert Slaney (Portugal Cove, NL) and Ted Stephens (Calgary, AB) and the scored was tied at 2 apiece.

UNB would take the lead again when Braes picked up his second goal of the night around two minutes into the third. Assist went to Carroll, who created the turnover that lead to the scoring opportunity, and Alex Wall (St. John’s, NL).

That’s when the Varsity Reds started to show a bit more life and picked up the pace to break free from the X-Men’s solid defence. Less than two minutes later they’d widen their lead to two goals. Francis Beauvillier (Montreal, QC) picked up his own rebound to make it 4-2 with an assist from Taylor MacDougall (Fredericton, NB).

UNB would seal the deal when Cam Critchlow (Fredericton, NB) snapped it in off a wrap-around pass from Mignardi and Wall with just two and a half minutes remaining, and the Varsity Reds would go on to take the first game of the series 5-2.

UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall said he was pleased to see the team really hit their stride as the game progressed.

“It’s always exciting to get to play in the AUS Final Four,” MacDougall said. “I thought there were a lot of big penalty kills for us. Big saves from David Shantz in net. But we sort of found our stride as the game went and especially in the third. We know now that we need to be ready to go tomorrow night. It’s a key game tomorrow night.”

Subway Player of the Game went to UNB’s Cam Braes.

The Varsity Reds and the X-Men will meet at the Aitken Centre tomorrow for Game 2 of the series. Puck drops at 7pm.