The curtain-raiser in the best-of-five series is at the Aitken University Centre in Fredericton on Thursday. Game 2 is also in Fredericton on Friday, before the series returns to MacLauchlan Arena on the UPEI campus in Charlottetown for Game 3 on Monday. All games start at 7 p.m.
“If you watch the four games that we played, both teams like to play fast,” said MacDougall, a native of Bedeque. “Fans are going to see great action.
“Both teams like getting on the puck and playing a high-pressure game, both teams have good speed and both teams play a physical game. Both teams are not going to sit back. Both teams are going to be on their toes, and play that high-pressured game that fans enjoy seeing.”
It’s the second year in a row the Forbie MacPherson-coached Panthers and Varsity Reds have met in the semifinals. UNB swept last year’s series.
“There’s a lot of respect for both teams,” said MacDougall. Forbie has done a tremendous job with their group. They are certainly one of the most improved teams in our league.
“It is the AUS, so whoever we are going to meet, we know we are going to have a good opponent.
“You get into the Final 4, you know you are going to have four good teams. It’s a fine line. A lot of times one goal will make a big difference. The goal is to find enough little separators so you can be one goal better.”
The Varsity Reds finished the regular season in first place at 23-5-0 (won-lost-overtime losses), and received a first-round bye. UPEI went 15-11-2 in regular-season play, and swept the St. Francis Xavier X-Men in the best-of-three quarter-final series.
“If you watch the four games that we played, both teams like to play fast. Fans are going to see great action. Both teams like getting on the puck and playing a high-pressure game, both teams have good speed and both teams play a physical game. Both teams are not going to sit back. Both teams are going to be on their toes, and play that high-pressured game that fans enjoy seeing.” - UNB head coach and Bedeque native Gardiner MacDougall
MacDougall added the bye could not have come at a better time.
“It’s a benefit and sometimes the benefit is more academically than hockey-wise,” explained MacDougall. “The two weeks we’ve had the bye are both mid-term weeks here at UNB, so they can actually get the studies done. . .
“It gives you a chance to prepare. We’ve had a number of injuries down the stretch and the bye gives you a chance to get those guys healthy and back in the lineup as well.”
The Varsity Reds swept all four regular-season meetings with the Panthers, but three of those games were decided by one goal.
“We had four very good games this year,” said MacDougall. “That’s why I think the AUS league is the league it is.
“When you play good opponents, even though there is only one winner and one loser, both teams get better after those games.”
MacDougall isn’t the only member of the Varsity Reds with ties to Prince County. Forward Colby Pridham is from Montrose; forward Taylor MacDougall, who is the coach’s son, has relatives on P.E.I., and forward Cameron Critchlow played some of his minor hockey career in Summerside.
Jason Simmonds is the sports editor of the Journal Pioneer. The “Islanders Away” feature appears every Thursday. To suggest an “Islander Away” please do so by emailing email@example.com.