After a lopsided victory over the eighth seeded Concordia Stingers in the men’s hockey University Cup quarter-finals, the UNB Varsity Reds are set to once again face off against long-time rivals, St.FX.
The result capped off day one of the eight-team tournament and saw UNB feed off the energy of a raucous Aitken Centre crowd, scoring early and often while limiting the Stingers to a total of just 17 shots on goal.
Varsity Reds forward Chris Clapperton kicked off the scoring nine minutes into the opening frame, with assists going to Mark Simpson and Matt Murphy.
Simpson increased the lead to 2-0 for the home side less than three minutes later, netting an unassisted goal off an impressive solo effort.
He would find himself on the scoreboard once again before the end of the first period, getting the primary assist on a goal by defenseman Randy Gazzola with 30 seconds remaining before the intermission. U Sports rookie of the year Kris Bennett picked up the second assist on the goal, his first of three points on the night.
UNB’s dominant play continued in the second period. However, the impressive play of Concordia netminder Marc-Antoine Turcotte kept his team in the game, making several highlight reel saves while facing a barrage of shots.
Unfortunately for the Stingers, Turcotte was forced to leave the game after taking a puck off the mask late in the period. He was unable to return for the third period and was replaced by backup Antoine Dagenais.
The Varsity Reds quickly took advantage of the goalie change. Bennett, Stephen Anderson and Matt Boudens each added powerplay goals within the first six minutes of the final period after Concordia took a string of penalties which resulted in two 5-on-3 opportunities for UNB.
After being contained by UNB’s tight defensive play for the majority of the game, U Sports regular season scoring leader Anthony Beauregard managed to get his team on the board shortly thereafter, bringing the score to 6-1.
However, it was too little, too late. UNB picked up an additional pair of late goals to complete the rout with a final score of 8-1.
UNB’s Mark Simpson and Concordia’s Massimo Carozza picked up player of the game honours for their respective squads.
Despite the Varsity Reds dominant performance, head coach Gardiner MacDougall still saw room for improvement in his team’s game in the post-game press conference.
“Any time you have a big game like this, with an exciting atmosphere and whatnot, I thought we were not as simple as we should have been early, but then we got going,” he said, adding, “In the second I thought we had opportunities but we were probably thinking too much. But I thought the third was a real solid effort.”
“The whole thing about our team is we want to try to find ways to improve every night.”
Earlier in the day, the St. Francis Xavier X-Men also punched their ticket to the semifinals with a 6-2 win over the Brock University Badgers. Their previous matchup against the Varsity Reds came in the AUS conference playoffs where they suffered a two game sweep.
The two teams will face off on Saturday night with the winner earning a spot in the University Cup championship game.