(FREDERICTON, NB) Mark Rassell (Calgary, AB) scored a hat-trick, including a pair of goals just six seconds apart in the first period, as the UNB Reds beat the Lethbridge Pronghorns 8-3 in the 2018 Peterbilt Atlantic Pete Kelly Cup.
"That's a first, obviously in my life, at least in competitive hockey," said Rassell, of his two goals in six seconds. "It was pretty exciting."
The Reds freshman scored his first, a shot from the high slot, at 5:09 of the first period.
Moments later, following the ensuing face-off, he took a pass from Stephen Anderson (Morell, PE) and beat Pronghorns netminder Taz Burman (Vancouver, BC) again.
"Off the draw, we ended up with a two-on-one," said Rassell. "I just had a feeling Andy(Anderson) was going to give it to me. It felt pretty good to get back to back goals, especially against Lethbridge and a lot of Western League guys that I played against."
"We've been through situations like that before, like a quick lapse," said Pronghorns forward Connor Sanvido (Maple Ridge, BC). "You just have to move on. If you dwell on that stuff, it happened in the first period, there's a lot of hockey to play after that. What's done is done and we had to move on and chip away."
Mark Simpson (Rothesay, NB) scored twice and added an assist for the Reds, while Kris Bennett (Brampton, ON), Randy Gazzola (Thorold, ON) and Tyler Boland (St. John's, NL) added singles. Bennett also had two assists.
Anderson and Chris Clapperton (Cap d'Espoir, QC) each had three assists.
Torrin White (Medicine Hat, AB), Sam McKechnie (Airdrie, AB) and Justin Valentino (Thompson, MB) scored for Lethbridge. White and Valentino also had assists.
Rassell was named the Reds player of the game and the most valuable player of the Pete Kelly Cup.
"I had this one circled, for sure," said Rassell. "I was heavily recruited by Lethbridge and ended up coming here. I wanted to show well today and prove that I made the right choice."
Valentino was named the Pronghorns player of the game.
Burman played the full 60 minutes for Lethbridge, giving up eight goals on 45 shots.
"Our puck management decisions hurt us," said Pronghorns head coach Murray Nystrom. "When you give a team like that so many opportunities, in transition situations, they make you pay. And they made us pay."
Nystrom, who played his university hockey at UNB, sees the Reds in the same category as Canada West leaders Alberta and Saskatchewan.
"I think they're all in the same category," he said. "The speed, the ability to make plays at high speed and pace is very similar. So, tonight's game is something we can take with us, back into conference play and our preparation for games down the road."
Down 3-0 in the first period, Lethbridge staged a bit of a rally.
They scored late in the first and early in the second, making it a 3-2 game.
It was a learning experience for the Reds.
"We found ourselves in a game," said Simpson. "If it's a blow-out early, guys can get on their heels a bit, but we dealt with the adversity of them coming back and we came back with a couple of goals ourselves and took the game over."
The Pronghorns, who will host the 2019 Cavendish Farms University Cup, travel to Edmundston on Sunday, to face l'Universite de Moncton Aigles Bleus, in exhibition play.
The Reds return to action on Friday and resume their Atlantic University Sport schedule, hosting the Saint Mary's Huskies. Game time is 7:00pm.
RECAP AND PHOTOS BY: Andy Campbell/UNB Athletics