St. John’s native Tyler Boland is headed to the Atlantic University Sports men’s hockey championship final. It remains to be seen which other Newfoundlanders he will face in that series.
Boland and the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds, the No.1 -ranked team in the country, will make what, for UNB, is almost an annual trip to the conference final after sweeping the Saint Mary’s Huskies in a best-of-five semifinal.
This marks the ninth time in 11 years that New Brunswick has moved into the AUS final. The Varsity Reds claimed five titles in that stretch.
Boland, a rookie centre for the Varsity Reds, had a goal in a series-clinching 6-2 win over the Huskies Monday night at the Halifax Forum. It was the first-ever collegiate playoff tally
for the 21-year-old who came to UNB after four years with the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic and a major junior career that saw him finish as runner-up in ‘Q’ scoring last season.
In 30 regular-season games with the Varsity Reds, Boland had seven goals and 27 points, making him UNB’s fourth-leading scorer and placing him sixth amongst all AUS rookies.
The Varsity Reds await the winner of the other semifinal between the St. Francis Xavier X-Men and Acadia Axemen. That series is tied 2-2 after the X-Men edged the Axemen 4-3 Monday night in Wolfville, N.S., home of Acadia University. The deciding game is Thursday night when St. FX plays the role of host at Antigonish, N.S.
Both the Axemen and X-Men have a couple of players with Newfoundland birth certificates.
Third-year defenceman Aaron Hoyles of Gander and second-year forward Marcus Cuomo are with St. FX, while Acadia has forwards Kris Hodge of Conception Bay South and Jack McClelland, who was born in St. John’s, but grew up in the United States; he’s the son of ex-NHLer Kevin McClelland, who skated for a couple of seasons with the AHL’s St. John’s Maple Leafs near the end of his playing career.
As well, the head coach of St. FX is Goulds native Brad Peddle, recently named the conference’s top coach for the second time in three years.
If the X-Men make the most of home-ice advantage and win Thursday night, it will set up an interesting rematch with the Varsity Reds in what will be a best-of-three series. St. FX defeated UNB in the last two AUS finals, but the Varsity went on to win the U Sports University Cup national title both years, having earned a berth in the Canadian collegiate championship as the AUS runner-up.
The AUS will have three entries in this year’s University Cup, set for March 15-18 at the Aitken Centre in Fredericton, N.B., home to the Varsity Reds. Besides the conference champion and runner-up, the AUS will also be represented by the third-place finisher, which will be the winner of a matchup between Saint Mary’s and whichever team loses Thursday night in Antigonish.