HALIFAX, Nova Scotia – Three teams from the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) Hockey Conference are already in the national spotlight, despite having not yet played a regular season game.
The season opening top-10 ranking of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) men’s hockey teams features a trio of AUS clubs. Ranked No. 2 in the country are the UNB Varsity Reds; holding down the No. 7 spot are the UPEI Panthers; while the Saint Mary’s Huskies begin the season as the eighth ranked team in Canada.
The Varsity Reds, last year’s national champions, narrowly missed out on the top spot. They received eight first-place votes, just one less than the top-ranked University of Alberta Golden Bears.
The StFX X-Men, Acadia Axemen and Dalhousie Tigers also received votes, but failed to crack the top 10.
All hands on deck for opening weekend
The 2013-14 AUS season kicks off with a full slate of games on Oct. 18.
UNB begins defense of its conference and national championships by hosting StFX. Dalhousie welcomes UPEI to the friendly confines of the Halifax Forum, while the St. Thomas Tommies will have their hands full when visiting the Acadia Axemen. The University of Moncton Blue Eagles round out opening night by hosting last year’s conference and national runner-ups, the Saint Mary’s Huskies.
AUS teams play a 28-game regular season, with the top six clubs qualifying for the playoffs.
Success hard to find south of the border
The Varsity Reds recorded a 2-1 win over the University of Denver Pioneers on Oct. 6, using two-goals from defenseman Ben Shutron to squeak out a victory. UNB goalie Charles Lavigne was especially strong in the win, stopping 37 shots.
StFX, Dalhousie, Acadia and Saint Mary’s also travelled to NCAA schools for preseason action, but all three clubs found nothing but defeat waiting for them south of the Canadian border.
The X-Men lost 2-0 to the Boston College Eagles, while Saint Mary’s was hammered 7-2 by the Quinnipiac Bobcats. Dalhousie also had a rough ride, dropping a 5-2 decision to the University of Maine Black Bears. Acadia was doubled 6-3 by the University of New Hampshire Wildcats.
Axemen turns pro
Former Acadia star forward Andrew Clark has found a home for the 2013-14 season.
Last year Clark finished second in the AUS scoring race with 32 points in 28 games (14 goals, 18 assists) before graduating from Acadia in the spring. It was recently revealed that the 25-year-old left-winger has signed with the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL and will begin his first professional season later this month.
Clark is no stranger to Stockton hockey fans, as he made quite an impression last spring when he joined the Thunder on an amateur tryout contract just in time for the club’s run to the Kelly Cup final.
In 22 playoff games with the Thunder, Clark registered seven goals, 14 assists and 21 points.
Follow us on Twitter @prohockeynews and @D_MacRae