The University of Western Ontario Mustangs are playing every game like it's their last at the Canadian university men's hockey championship.
Keaton Turkiewicz had a goal and an assist as Western advanced to the championship final with a 3-2 upset victory over top-seeded New Brunswick Varsity Reds on Saturday.
No. 4 Western will now meet No. 2 McGill in Sunday's final in a rematch of the Queen's Cup. The Mustangs lost that game 4-1.
“We've played some great games, but in terms of playing with a desperate energy inside of you, every game (at the University Cup) has seemed like an overtime game for us,” said Western defenceman Adam Aarssen. “I'm really proud of how the guys have worked so far. I haven't seen that out of the guys many times this year and it's great to see we're rising at the right time.”
The Redmen booked a spot in the final earlier in the day, despite a 4-3 loss to the No. 3 Saskatchewan Huskies in the other semi-fnial. McGill advanced thanks to a better goal differential.
Jason Furlong's short-handed goal at 17:48 of the first period stood up as the eventual winner for Western. The Mustangs had a 3-0 lead after the first period, with Dominic De Sando also scoring in the frame. Goaltender Josh Unice made 31 saves and was named player of the game for Western.
“I think we even elevated our game (from Thursday),” said Unice. “Guys were diving and we had, who I feel is the best player in the CIS (Aarssen) putting his bare hands in front of pucks just to block them.”
“It's a great attribute of our team. We have a lot of sacrifice in our locker room.”
New Brunswick scored twice on the power-play goal in the third period on goals by Jon Harty and Kyle Bailey, but couldn't complete the comeback. Travis Fullerton made 40 saves for UNB.
“It's tough right now and obviously we've done some incredible things over the past five years and one of those things is developing this expectancy (to win),” said fifth-year player and New Brunswick captain Bailey.
“I'm sure there's however many teams here that are dancing around happy that we lost right now, but in our dressing room it's an expectation, we're expected to win and win expect to win in our locker room. It didn't happen today and it's disappointing.”
Earlier on Saturday, Huskies captain Kyle Ross scored the winner during a power play with five minutes remaining in regulation.
The second-seeded Redmen could afford to lose to the Huskies by two goals or less and still qualify for the championship match. The OUA champions had doubled the Moncton Aigles Bleus 6-3 on Thursday, while Saskatchewan lost 5-1 to Moncton on Friday.
The three teams finished Pool B with identical 1-1 records but McGill advanced on a goal differential.
It's the Redmen's second straight appearance in the gold medal game. They dropped a 4-0 decision last year to UNB.
Kyle Bortis had a goal and two assists while Derek Hulak and Cory Smuk also scored for Saskatchewan.
Netminder Ryan Holfeld of Leroy, Sask., delivered a 40-save performance for the Huskies.
Captain Evan Vossen, Francis Verreault-Paul of Mashteuiatsh, Que., and defenceman Keven Dupont of St-Charles-de-Bellechasse, Que., had the goals for McGill.
Morin, a native of St-Georges-de-Beauce, Que., turned aside 26 of 30 pucks fired his way.