(HALIFAX, N.S.) The reigning U SPORTS champions, the UNB Reds, are the favourites to repeat as winners of the AUS men's hockey conference according to the head coaches.
The results of the inaugural coaches' poll were released Tuesday ahead of Wednesday's AUS regular season opener between the StFX X-Men and Dalhousie Tigers in Halifax.
This marks the first year for the AUS men's hockey pre-season coaches' poll, which was voted on by the league's seven head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own teams
The two-time defending Atlantic conference champions received all six first-place votes from the conference head coaches and a total of 36 points. UNB finished the regular season in first place last season with 25 wins, three losses and two OT losses for 52 points.
The Reds then went on to win five straight conference playoff games and three consecutive games at the national championship in Lethbridge to claim the University Cup for the eighth time in program history and the third time in the last four years.
UNB's first-place vote went to the StFX X-Men, who finished second in the coaches' poll with 31 points. StFX, bronze medalists at the U SPORTS championships last year, ended the 2018-19 season in third place in the AUS standings and advanced to the best-2-of-3 league final before eventually getting swept by the Reds.
The Saint Mary's Huskies round out the top three vote-getters in the pre-season poll with 24 points. The Huskies finished the 2018-19 campaign in second place with a record of 19-10-1 for 39 points, but lost their best 3-of-5 AUS semifinal series in Game 5 to the X-Men.
Saint Mary's will return to the campus for their home games this season as they will now host opponents at the recently completed Dauphinee Centre. They will host Gardiner MacDougall and the UNB Reds Friday night at 7 p.m. to mark the first game in the new facility.
This year's AUS playoff format will once again feature a pair of best-of-three quarterfinal series, followed by a best-of-five format in the semifinals and a best-of-three final round.
AUS is guaranteed three berths in the 2020 U SPORTS University Cup, which is being hosted by Acadia at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, N.S.
Should the Axemen advance to the 2020 AUS final, a best-of-three consolation final series will be held to determine the third team from the Atlantic conference to compete in the national championship.
The 2020 U SPORTS University Cup will be held March 12-15.
2019 AUS MEN'S HOCKEY PRE-SEASON COACHES POLL
(First-place votes in parentheses):
1. UNB (6), 36
2. StFX (1), 31
3. Saint Mary's, 24
4. UPEI, 20
5. Acadia, 19
6. Moncton, 11
7. Dalhousie, 6
NOTE: Coaches ranked all opponents 1-6. First-place votes worth 6 pts., second-place worth 5 pts. etc.
The 2019 season opens Wednesday night with the Dalhousie Tigers hosting the StFX X-Men in a 7 p.m. start.
All seven AUS teams will see action this weekend, with all games available live on AUStv at www.AUStv.ca.
For a complete look at the 2019 AUS men's hockey schedule, click here.