X-Men fall to Reds in close AUS championship game

Photo credit James West, UNB Athletics
Photo credit James West, UNB Athletics

(FREDERICTON, NB) The UNB REDS are the 2021-2022 Atlantic University Sport men's hockey champions after defeating the STFX X-Men 3-1 on Friday night in front of a sold-out Aitken Centre.

REDS' captain Samuel Dove-McFalls (Montreal, QC) scored the game-winning goal for the REDS, on the powerplay, at 3:20 of the third period to give UNB their fourth straight AUS banner, and the 18th in team history. The REDS captain took a pass from Mark Rassell (Calgary, AB) in front of the net and put it past X-Men goalie Joseph Raaymakers (Chatham, ON) to give UNB a 2-1 lead.

"It was a play that we like to run on the powerplay that worked out perfectly," said Dove-McFalls. "All the credit to goes to Rob Hennigar, our powerplay coach, for setting that up."

After both teams played to a scoreless draw in the first period, UNB's Ryan Roth (St. Louis, MO) got the REDS on the board 11:20 into the second. The first-year forward was able to beat Raaymakers high, blocker side, to put the REDS up 1-0.

With just two seconds remaining in the second, X was able to answer back on a goal from Liam Hawel (Arnprior, ON). He took a cross-crease pass from Matthew Philip (Ilderton, ON) and put the puck past UNB goalie Rylan Parenteau (Saskatoon, SK) before time ran out to tie the game heading into the third period.

"I wasn't exactly sure how much time was left but I just tried to find a seem through the D-men, and I was lucky enough that it went in," said Hawel.

UNB's staunch defense was able to hold onto the lead through the third period after Dove-McFalls' go-ahead goal to bring home the victory. They were able to hold the league's top-scoring offense to just 14 shots on the night.

"This stings right now, but both programs have been on both sides of losing this final and getting another chance," said X-Men head coach Brad Peddle. "We're going to take this experience and use it. This is a lot of our guys' first chance at winning an AUS Championship, so some learning lessons here, and we're fortunate enough that we get a chance next week and that's the end goal."

In the final moments of the game, Isaac Nurse (Hamilton, ON) scored an empty-net goal to give UNB the 3-1 lead and secure the win.

"We knew this was a one-game series so we had to come out as hard as we possibly could," said Nurse. "We played amazing as a collective group, Rylan [Parenteau] stood on his head, Sam [Dove-McFalls] led the way for us, and we were able to finish it off."

Both teams will now shift their focus towards the 2022 U SPORTS Championship, next week, at Acadia University.

"Our goal is to go to nationals every year and push for good ol' Irene (the University Cup). We'll celebrate tonight, and tomorrow we're right back at it," said Dove-McFalls.

The seedings and schedule for the University Cup tournament are due out Sunday evening.


RECAP BY: Evan Richtsfeld/UNB Athletics