Wednesday 15 October 2008

The Daily Gleaner's Bruce Hallihan's AUS Preview Online

A very special thanks to columnist Bruce Hallihan, who was kind enough to provide us with electronic versions of his 18th annual AUS Preview from last Friday's Daily Gleaner. Whether or not you agree with Bruce's assessments, there's no debate that this feature is always a great read, and we thank Bruce for his hours of dedication and effort in covering the AUS and providing us with this highly anticipated article.

You can access the preview below. We have hosted the PDF files on a 3rd party hosting site, so any issues you may encounter - which we hope are none - are our error and not of the Daily Gleaner.

Also, the text of the overview article which accompanied the preview piece is below, which again Bruce was kind enough to pass along...


Gardiner MacDougall is an optimist and a realist.

As much as he’d like to see his University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds get another crack at the University Cup men’s hockey championship next March — and there’s a good chance they will — he knows UNB will never have another season like last one.

“Last year was an anomaly,” MacDougall said. “To have one team go 26-1-1 in the regular season ... that happens, what, once every eight or 10 years?”

It was a dream season with a nightmarish ending.

Heading into the Nationals final in Moncton, the V-Reds were riding a 21-game winning streak and had lost just four of 47 games overall. They were the number one ranked team all season. But a red-hot Aaron Sorochan backstopped the University of Alberta Golden Bears to a 3-2 victory over the favoured V-Reds, who outshot their western rivals 42-25.

Now the Reds, still good and hungry, want to earn one of two Atlantic University Sport Men’s Hockey Conference tickets to Thunder Bay, Ont.

The Lakehead University Thunderwolves are hosting Nationals the next two years.

MacDougall knows it won’t be easy to get there. The coaches’ consensus is the AUS recruiting crop is the best in three years and six of the eight teams feel they’re better than last year.

“I thought last year, from one to eight, was the weakest the talent has been,” Acadia Axemen coach Darren Burns said, “but I think that’s been turned completely upside down. It looks like as talented a league as it’s been in years.”

The V-Reds expect the Saint Mary’s Huskies to be right on their tail.


The Huskies lost all six games to UNB last season — including 3-2 in overtime twice in a thrilling AUS final — but were 23-1-4 against everybody else.

“I think you’re back to every weekend there are no gimmes,” MacDougall said of a more parity filled conference. “A game on October 17 will be just as important as a game on February 14. Every night’s a four-point game because everyone’s in the same division.

“Saint Mary’s is certainly going to be a worthy opponent and Acadia’s got a lot of big names in there,” MacDougall said. “UNB-Moncton is one of the top rivalries in CIS sport. St. FX had a huge recruiting season, UPEI’s improved...”

The St. Thomas Tommies, who’ve lost six of their top seven pointgetters, and the Dalhousie Tigers, who won five of 28 games last season, will have to overachieve to get in.

But no one’s discounting them entirely.

“I see tremendous parity in the league,” UPEI coach Dylan Taylor said. “Every night in this league everybody’s got a chance. You’ve got to bring your focus, your work ethic and your A game.”

Taylor doesn’t consider anyone a frontrunner.

“I really think that the league’s wide open,” he said. “I give everybody as much chance as everyone else.”

“I thought the conference had a great recruiting year,” STU bench boss Mike Eagles said. “There are teams that have made significant improvements on paper, but at the same time that doesn’t get you any points.

“But you have to look at the two frontrunners from last year, UNB and Saint Mary’s, as being the two frontrunners again this year,” Eagles said. “Other than that, it’s going to be who plays the best.”

“UNB and Saint Mary’s are going to be the top two teams,” Burns said. “The only reason a hockey person would give UNB the edge is because they’re defending champs. When you’re the champs, obviously you’ve had that experience. But Saint Mary’s is a high-character group and they’re extremely well-coached.

“After that, I think you’re going to see a flip of the coin,” Burns said. “There’s no question, those are the two lead horses but at the same time I think the other teams have more of a realistic ability to knock those teams off.”

Paddy Flynn and Doug Doull are running the SMU bench until Trevor Stienburg returns from a lengthy illness, hopefully in January.

“After last season’s 20 wins — the most in our history — and a final berth, this program has a very achievable goal of getting back to the final,’’ Flynn said. “Many of the programs in the conference have improved such as UPEI, Acadia and St. FX with UNB basically just retooling an already impressive program to finish off where they left off.

“The V-Reds are deep and their goals and eyes are firmly fixed on the big prize,” Flynn said. “All roads to the CIS Nationals will have to be paved through them.”

Universite de Moncton coach Bob Mongrain isn’t so sure.

“I think every team’s got quality players,” Mongrain said. “It is a tough conference, like everyone says, so your recruiting had better be good. But sometimes you’ve got to wait and see where you fit in.

“Looking at teams on paper is one thing. Until I see the other seven teams once, I’m only concerned about how our team looks,” Mongrain said.

“I know a lot of coaches are happy with their recruits, so that’s a good sign,” St. FX head coach Brad Peddle said. “It’s going to be a dogfight, like it always is. UNB has a very strong team — and everybody knows that — but I think some teams are going to use their returning group and a good recruiting class to claw away to get up towards the top.”

New Dal Tigers coach Pete Belliveau, who has 16 years of CIS experience on his resumé, isn’t afraid to handicap the conference.

“I definitely think you’re going to see UNB, then Moncton, Saint Mary’s, Acadia,” Belliveau said. “X is not far behind, then St. Thomas, UPEI and us fighting for the last playoff spot.”

We’ll have a better idea before long.

The regular season opens a week from today, followed by best-of-three quarter-final and semifinal series and a best-of-five final.
Here are the links to the Daily Gleaner's AUS Preview (Adobe Reader may be required, click here to download):

Front Proof (Page 1)
Spread Proof (Pages 2&3)
Back Proof (Page 4)

Please note, files may take a few moments to load.

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