Wednesday 4 January 2006

St Thomas Tommies first half review [2005]

Jan 4th, 2006. First Half Review.

The regular season started October 14th in PEI on a positive note with a 3-2 win. PEI native, Thatcher Bell, saved the day with the winning goal mid way through the 3rd period. Aaron Molnar picked up the win. The team returned home the next night to play their cross campus rival the UNB Squirrels.

The game was interesting right from the opening face off. After the horn went to end the 1st, a fight between rookie defenceman Anthony Butera and 3rd year forward Stacey Smallman brought the fans to their feet. Smallman, in true Squirrel fashion, surprised Butera (in his second AUS game) by starting the fight. After the initial fleury of 5 or 6 punches thrown by Smallman, the STU rookie landed some great upper cuts and soon after brought the instigator down. Give Stacey the win based on his surprise attack and Mr. Butera a lesson on Squirrel tactics.

UNB kept taking one goal leads only to have the Tommies tie it up 3 times. The game was decided in overtime on a UNB breakaway goal and Aaron Molnar took the OT loss. After the game Tommie defenseman Mike Couch gave an honest statement to a local paper when he said “they hate us and we hate them”. It was nice to see some emotion as opposed to the standard post game drivel.

The Tommies home opener was on Friday, October 21st against Acadia. The Tommies came out victorious 5 to 1. Nick Theriault had 3 points in the win and Ryan Card scored less than a minute into the 2nd with the eventual game winner. Andrew Sim played a great game and got the win.

On Saturday night the St Mary’s Huskies invaded the LBR and the Tommies started out strong. They took the early lead only to have the Huskies fight back to tie it. The game went to overtime where an unlucky bounce off the referee and onto the stick of a SMU player led to the game winner. Andrew Sim took the OT loss. With the 3 points on the weekend the Tommies would end up being nationally ranked at #7.

The following weekend the 7th ranked Tommies were on the road to face Acadia and SMU. The Tommies were down 3 to 1 half way through the third period and things weren’t looking good for the Green and Gold on the Olympic size ice of Acadia
Arena. Out of the blue local boy Matt Seymour and Mark Cody caught fire and scored two goals in less than a minute to tie the game at 3. Acadia came back and scored with 50 seconds remaining in the third with what appeared to be the winner. Coach Eagles pulled the goalie and hoped for the best. With 11 seconds left in the third Captain Kyle McAllister potted his second of the game to tie the score. This was Kyle’s first game back after missing the previous 3 games with an injury. Good to have you back! Unfortunately for the Tommies, Acadia scored with less than a minute remaining in overtime to hand the boys their third overtime loss in 4 games. Aaron Molnar took the OT loss but was solid in net facing 50 shots.

The next night in Halifax the Tommies went into the first intermission tied 0 - 0 but it was all downhill from there. The Huskies scored the next 5 goals and eventually took the game 5 to 2. Andrew Sim took the loss.

On Wednesday, November 2nd the Squirrels infested the LBR with their presence and Part 2 of The Battle of the Hill. Less than 2 minutes into the game Anthony Butera was hit from behind by Nathan O’Nabigon. Once again the rookie defenceman learned to never turn your back on a Squirrel. O’Nabigon got 5 minutes and a game misconduct. The PP however was short lived thanks in large part to the Captain of the UNB dive team, Craig Mahon.(AKA Captain Squirrel) Rookie Miguel Delisle had a run in with Mahon in front of the UNB bench and touched him in the gut with his stick. Mahon went down like he was shot and Miguel was assessed 4 minutes for spearing. Good old Craig had to be helped from the ice but somehow found the strength to be back out on the point by the end of the power play. That guy is a trooper and true leader of our furry tailed rodent friends on the other side of the hill. The Tommies scored twice in the first and took a 2 goal lead into the second period.

The Tommies came out fast and furious and really took it to UNB early. Justin McCutcheon just missed making it 3 to 0 midway through the second while killing a penalty. The puck squirted out of the Tommies end and down the ice towards the UNB goalie, who proceeded to go out to his blue line to get the puck. The race was on and Justin was just barely first to the puck but whiffed on the deke and UNB got away with one. Shortly after this, momentum swung and UNB scored 3 quick goals to take the lead.

The third period was uneventful until the final minute. With the Tommies still down by a goal Coach Eagles pulled Molnar. The team couldn’t seem to organize in the UNB end and most of the chances were UNB’s into the open net. Two very near misses on the Tommie net started to send some of the doubters to the doors. With less than 15 seconds on the clock and the puck missing the open net by inches, UNB was called for icing. With their last chance to tie, the Tommies fought furiously in the UNB end for puck possession. With 5 seconds left Miguel Delisle found himself behind the net and sent the puck out front. It hit the UNB goal keeper and with 2 seconds left, it bounced in to tie the score and send the LBR faithful into fits of joy. In the overtime frame Nick Theriault came within a goal post of winning it for the Tommies but they had to settle for the tie. Aaron Molnar was the goalie of record with the tie.

Friday, November 4th U de M was in town to play the Tommies. This was the first game in Fredericton for the Aigles Bleus since Sebastian Savage was injured in an October 28th game against Acadia. The Tommies donated the 50-50 proceeds of this game and the UNB game to the Sebastian Savage Fund. STU also sold blue and white ribbons to help support this worthy cause.

The Aigles Blues played well and literally dominated the Tommies in a 4 to 1 win. The Tommies went 1 for 11 on the power play. Ryan Card scored the lone goal and Aaron Molnar took the loss in net.

Saturday, November 5th the team was on the road for their final trip of the regular season to PEI. This would also be the last game of the first half for newcomer Jeff Bateman and 3rd year forward Matt Seymour because of injury. Those two did not disappoint and both of them had a 2 point night. Chris Cook scored 3 points and the game winner in a 4 to 0 win. Andrew Sim recorded the shutout for his second win of the season.

The Tommies were back at home for their next 2 games. The Dalhousie Tigers were in on Friday, November 11th and St. FX X-men on the 12th. The Tigers looked hungry and came out swinging and held a 3 - 2 advantage going into the third. The Tommies responded by scoring 2 quick goals in the third to take the lead but Dalhousie tied the game less than a minute after that. The tie was short lived as Oromocto native Nick Theriault wired home the game winner on the PP with 15 minutes to play. Andrew Sim shut the door from there to the final whistle to get his third win of the year.

The game against X on the 12th was an interesting affair. The first goal scored by X was questionable as the puck squeezed between Simmer’s pads and slid slowly toward the goal line. It sounded like the Referee had blown the whistle before the puck went over the line but he didn’t think so and the goal counted. The Tommies countered with a goal by Nick Theriault less than a minute later.

The second period would see the remaining 5 goals of the game scored on the power play. First Ryan White of X took 2 minor penalties, one for holding and one for roughing. Just a few seconds later Miguel Delisle was skating past the penalty box and was hit in the face by Ryan White’s stick that was protruding over the penalty box and into the playing surface. Delisle went down on the ice for several minutes and White got issued 2 more minor penalties and a game misconduct for the stick infraction. Several minutes into the 2 man advantage, Delisle comes back onto the ice and ends up taking a face-off against Ryan Walsh, who takes exception to Miguel being back on the ice so quickly after being hurt. Walsh takes a poke at Delisle and gets assessed a 2 minute minor for roughing. The Tommies are on an extended 2 man advantage and find the back of the net 3 times on the PP.

X scored 2 more goals before the 2nd period was over but they would get no more in the third as Andrew Sim came up big time and time again for his 4th win and 3rd in a row. At the end of the game both coaches were assessed game misconducts for not obeying the referee’s directions as the teams left the ice. Coach Eagles would end up being suspended for 1 game because of this. Right or wrong, injured or not, Miguel Delisle was the catalyst behind the win on this night.

The following weekend would see the boys on the back end of the home and home games against Dal and X. On Friday November 18th the Tommies tamed the Tigers 3 to 0 with Coach Eagles in the press box sitting out his 1 game suspension. Assistant Coach Danny Grant didn’t miss a beat and Andrew Sim recorded his second shut out of the season, his 5th win of the year, and 4th in a row. Paul Giallonardo recorded the winning goal and Miguel Delisle had 2.

The rematch of the November 12th game between X and STU would take place in Antigonish. The same Tommie who gave them fits the week before did his thing again. Miguel Delisle came through with a big 4 point game including 2 goals (1 on a penalty shot). Andrew Sim stood large in net and stopped 33 St FX shots for his 5th win in a row. With the win the Tommies were back in the National rankings at #8.

The final weekend of the season saw the Tommies on the road in Moncton on Friday and back home for a Saturday night battle against the Panthers. Andrew Sim started for the 6th game in a row but just like their first game against U de M, the boys came up flat. Moncton thumped the Tommies 4 to 0 and the inability of the PP unit to beat the Moncton goalie, really hurt.

The final night of the first half had the Tom Cats back home in the friendly confines of the LBR. The Panthers scored first but couldn’t control the Tommies Captain in the third and the home side walked into the dressing room at the end of the game on a high note. Kyle McAllister scored 2 goals in the third including the winner. Aaron Molnar finished the first half just as he had started it, with a win against UPEI. With the win the Tommies cemented 3rd place in the AUS and would remain nationally ranked at #9.

So after the first 15 games of the season the Tommies are 2 points out of first place and their magic number is 5. With 13 games left for all teams, any combination of Dalhousie losses and St. Thomas wins, equalling 5, will see the Tommies in the playoffs.

On a related note, a comment was made in the local paper to the effect that it was about time the AUS was gaining some respect in the national rankings. Over the course of the first half up to 5 AUS teams have cracked the top 10 in the same week. While it is agreed that it is nice to see, it reflects poorly on the parity that we all know and love about the AUS. The national rankings are almost solely based on a team’s record and because of this, the AUS has historically shown poorly nationally. Why? All the AUS teams could beat each other on any given night. The best team wasn’t that much better than the worst team. Their records would be closer to .500 than the Ontario and Western teams, who had much easier fodder to feed off of. This year the AUS has two teams with 3 wins between them, each against one another, and the UNB anomaly against Dal. (The Tigers thumped UNB 7 - 1 on Oct 21st) This has translated into 4 or 5 extra points per team this year that they never usually get. For instance the Tommies and St FX have 10 points because of a perfect 5 and 0 record against Dal and UPEI. Acadia, St Mary’s, and Moncton have perfect records and 8 points apiece against the two bottom teams. All of these teams are ranked or have been ranked this year.

So while it is nice to see our Atlantic schools getting noticed nationally, it has come at the expense of 2 respected hockey programs and the parity that drives the league. In the short term I think we should be happy about it but in the long term let’s hope the national rankings include a few less AUS teams and the AUS standings show 8 vibrant, competitive teams.