(ANTIGONISH, NS) The UNB Reds scored three first period goals on route to a 7-1 victory over the StFX X-Men on Wednesday night, winning their second straight Atlantic University Sport title.
Cam Brace (Etobicoke, ON), Olivier LeBlanc (Quebec City, QC), and Tyler Boland (St. John's, NL) scored in the first period, as the Reds powered past their opponents early.
Brace's goal came before the game was a minute old.
Moving down the right side, Brace cut into the slot and ripped a wrist shot past X-Men goalie Chase Marchand (Halifax, NS) at the 51 second mark.
"We wanted to try and get the lead and protect it as best we could," said Reds head coach Gardiner MacDougall. "We had a couple key penalty kills in the first period and then were able to extend the lead as the game went on."
At the 15:00 mark, LeBlanc's point shot found its way through a crowd in front of Marchand and into the X net.
About three minutes later, at 17:51, Boland got a rebound in front and put it past Marchand, giving the Reds a 3-0 lead after one period of play.
4:34 into the second Oliver Cooper (Fredericton, NB) muscled his way to the front of the net and beat Marchand on a wrap-around to give UNB a 4-0 lead.
The home team replied at 8:19, with captain Mark Tremaine (Dartmouth, NS) trimming the Reds lead to 4-1.
With less than 2:30 to play in the period, Brace sprung Kris Bennett (Brampton, ON) on a breakaway. Bennett made a nifty move to force Marchand's hand and then fired a wrist shot into the StFX net as the Reds went up 5-1.
Boland would add two more in the third to get the hat-trick. He was named the Subway Player of the Game.
Bennett was named the most valuable player of the 2019 AUS men's hockey playoffs.
Despite the lopsided score, X-Men head coach Brad Peddle was proud of his team.
"It's been quite the adversity we've had to deal with over the last five, six weeks," said Peddle. "It's been a tough, grueling schedule against three very good teams and we've had to do it with significant bodies out of the line-up."
The conference championship is the 16th for UNB.
The Reds have won the AUS six times in the last decade, including three of the last five.
Both UNB and St FX will represent the AUS at the Cavendish Farms University Cup, in Lethbridge, Alberta, March 14-17.
"The national championship is the next step, and we'll see how the rankings go," said MacDougall. "We'll get in a couple good days of practice and we've got an opportunity in front of us, but it is all about being best prepared for game number one."
The seeding and draw for the 2019 University Cup is expected out on Sunday.
"We have to give a lot of credit to our opponent for their resilience and what they've gone through," said MacDougall. "I'm sure they will be ready to go to Lethbridge next week as both team are looking forward to representing the AUS conference as best as possible."
RECAP BY: Andy Campbell/UNB Athletics with files from St FX Athletics
PHOTOS BY: Albert Banahene/for St FX Athletics