By Ankur Kumar
(BRAMPTON, ON) – For the second time in the 52 years of the University Cup, the Windsor Lancers will meet the UNB Varsity Reds. The second seeded Reds earned the previous meeting on the national stage, when both teams encountered the other’s company on March 26 1998.
Three days later, the Reds won their first University Cup in school history, redeeming their loss to the Guelph Gryphons in the previous year’s finals.
After defeating the McGill Redmen, in overtime, to conclude a thrilling OUA hockey season, the seventh seeded Lancers have struck panic in the Atlantic with their brand of scoring terror.
The focus in the bronze medal game zoomed in on Spencer Pommells and Cedric McNicoll. Both divisional MVPs led the playoff-scoring race, begging the question, “Who will get ahead of the other?” with the last ticket to the University Cup on the line.
Neither skater broke the tie and the 2014-15 OUA playoff lead is forever shared at 12 points. The debate will stay open for future interuniversity puck heads to squabble about.
For now, Philippe Maillet is the new front line matchup for Spencer Pommells.
While Pommells led the Lancers and the CIS with 50 points through 27 games, Maillet led the Varsity Reds and the Atlantic University Sport conference with 41. He pushed his team to a 22-4-2 record, translating into the AUS Championship and a 3-2 series win over the Acadia Axemen.
Maillet was central to the 12 game win streak attained earlier this season. His 27 points during that span extended his ability beyond the shores of the AUS.
As integral as Maillet was for the Varsity Reds, Pommells put up 27 points in 10 of the 11 straight wins the Lancers posted to start the 2014-15 regular season.
Pommells finished the OUA playoffs with the most goals, six, through eight playoff games. Ryan Green’s game tying effort, followed by the ticket-punching sizzler, past Jacob Gervais-Chouinard, tied Pommells for the OUA goals lead.
More importantly, Green’s scoring touch reminded the Lancers they could take it upon themselves to change the momentum. This was apparent, especially when the OUA’s top post-season scorer was serving a 10-minute misconduct following an infamous check to Patrick Delisle-Houde.
“It hurts having our best player in the box, but we took care of business and won the game,” team captain Drew Palmer explained.
Who knows what Nationals would be like without Green’s attendance? Palmer and the Lancers are aware of how much more strength is required this season, especially after their first place finish in the OUA, that only grew the target large on their backs.
“We’ll obviously need his physical presence and that shot; it is lethal and one of the best I’ve ever seen,” said Palmer.
In the most crucial moment of the season, the fire Green was known for in the 2011-12 season reignited at the exact moment the team needed it.
“Playing with [Green] all year, and the chemistry we’ve been able to create, it has been great,” said Pommells. “He can score from inside the blue line against tough opponents. With him back, we’re deeper and we have experience. We know what to expect in the first round [of the University Cup].”
Ryan Green’s pair of goals punched the Blue and Gold’s ticket to Halifax; a great cap to his return to the Lancers roster after a one year sabbatical.
“It was a long year,” green said. “I owe it to the coaching staff for having me back.”
With Green lighting the way, the Lancers are ready to build upon their CIS playoff record with another win against a Maritime marauder.
“We’ve played against top teams like McGill [in the OUA playoffs] and UNB [at the Pete Kelly Cup] and we have a confidence about our team, that we don’t just want to be happy going there,” summarized Green. “We want to make a statement.”
On the Varsity Reds, defenseman Jordan Murray was the prime offensive threat, during the AUS playoffs, with nine points through eight games. As Julian Luciani stepped up with two goals in game three against the Brock Badgers, Murray rose with two assists against the McGill Redmen.
While Kenny Bradford attempts to rediscover his scoring prowess, the tandem, with the upstart Luciani, lightens the load on Bradford, one of the highest scoring defensemen this season in the entire CIS.
The duel between Parker Van Buskirk and David Shantz is a showdown between Canada’s best cavaliers of the crease. Van Buskirk went 18-4-1, while Shantz was 18-3-2, and both led the CIS with 18 wins each.
PVB concluded this year’s OUA playoff run with a 4-3 record, 2.26 GAA, and a .913 save percentage. Meanwhile, Shantz concluded his AUS postseason going 5-2-0, 2.31 GAA, and an .893 svp.
“We’re happy to play on the big stage,” Van Buskirk said. “We know what to expect. We struggled in the finals and we wanted to prove we earned our spot at the top of the OUA.”
Since 2007, the Varsity Reds have won the University Cup four times, the most out of anyone at this year’s tournament during that span. Their most recent championship victory was 2013, following titles in 2007, 2009, and 2011.
“Having gone through it last year, that was a growing experience,” agreed Matt Beaudoin, “We were happy to be there. But, this year, we expected to be back at Nationals. We’ve had setbacks, like not winning the Queen’s Cup, but it’s a part of the journey. It’s another part of the story.”
It’s a new chapter in the chronicle of Lancers hockey. As the Lancers build toward a great future during the team’s 50th season of service, there is no way better way to exorcise a demon of the past than by beating the Reds.
The puck-drop is at 6:00 PM EST on CIS TV, live from Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, NS.