Saint Mary's Huskies playoff win highlights 'stronger, faster' AUS hockey
The Huskies edged the Moncton Aigles Bleus 3-2 in Game 1 of a best-of-three quarterfinal playoff series Wednesday night at the Halifax Forum.
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For physical defenceman Austyn Hardie, lacing up for his rookie season with the Saint Mary's Huskies has meant playing his kind of hockey.
"It's obviously my type of game," the six-foot-one, 198-pound player from Brossard, Que., said Wednesday night, after helping lead the Huskies to a closely played 3-2 win over the Moncton Aigles Bleus in home rink the Halifax Forum.
The 22-year-old from Brossard, Que., is starting off his first-ever Atlantic University Sport playoff run after a solid regular season with his new team, and before that, four years of manning the blue line for the Halifax Mooseheads.
"It's really physical and it's good hockey," the Saint Mary's business student said.
"Playing at this level is an even higher level," Hardie said of AUS action compared to Quebec Major Junior Hockey League play.
Hardie has notched two goals and two assists, in addition to 34 penalty minutes, in his first year wearing maroon and white.
"The guys are older, bigger and stronger - and we also have a will to compete," he said.
Hard work is what the Huskies showed Wednesday, with two of three goals coming on power plays.
Third-year forward Stephen MacAulay, who had two points, cracked the scoreboard first with three minutes left in the opening frame.
"It was quick; on the power play, I won the draw back to (Stephen) Gillard and he shot it, and it just came my way," the 23-year-old from Cole Harbour recalled.
Gillard also had a third-period goal for Saint Mary's, while Anthony Repaci notched a goal and an assist and Ben Duffy had two helpers. Goaltender Cole Cheveldave made 19 saves.
For Moncton, Steve Lebel and Alex Emond scored, while Pierre Durepos and Alex Saulnier both contributed a couple of assists. Goaltender Adrien Lemay made 34 saves.
"We knew they were going to play hard," MacAulay said of the Aigles Bleus, who the Huskies face off against in Game 2 of a best-of-three-series Friday night in Moncton.
"It's a tough place to play; they always play well in their building," he said.
Hardie and MacAulay were both members of the 2013 Memorial Cup-winning Halifax Mooseheads roster, and hope to add AUS and CIS championship titles to their hockey resumes by the end of this season.
"A lot of people get surprised when they come and see us," Hardie said of Atlantic University Sport puck.
"But it's really good hockey, it's really physical and it's the type of hockey that people like to watch."
MacAulay agreed AUS hockey is "very under-rated."
"This hockey is older guys and former (Q-league) players that are just more mature, stronger and faster."
Atlantic University Sport men's hockey quarterfinal face-off featuring Saint Mary's Huskies:
Game 2: Friday, Feb. 19 - Saint Mary's Huskies at Moncton Aigles Bleus, 7 p.m.
Game 3: Sunday, Feb. 21 - Moncton Aigles Bleus at Saint Mary's Huskies, 7 p.m. (if necessary)
Atlantic University Sport women's hockey quarterfinal face-off featuring Dalhousie Tigers:
The St. Thomas Tommies topped the Dalhousie Tigers 6-2 in women's hockey action Wednesday night in Fredericton. They'll have to win their next two quarterfinal games to advance in AUS playoffs.
Game 2: Friday, Feb. 19 - St. Thomas Tommies at Dalhousie Tigers, 7:30 p.m.
Game 3: Sunday, Feb. 21 - Dalhousie Tigers at St. Thomas Tommies, 3 p.m.