SASKATOON -- Nick MacNeil led the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds to the University Cup final with two goals and an assist Saturday, contributing to an explosive 8-3 win over the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivieres Patriotes in the CIS men's hockey championship tournament.
The second-seeded Varsity Reds will battle the fourth-seed Saint Mary's University Huskies for the championship Sunday, marking the first time since 2007 two Maritime teams faced off in the final matchup.
The teams faced off just weeks ago in the Atlantic University Sports championships, where UNB emerged on top of a three-game series.
UNB coach Gardiner MacDougall said that despite his team's recent win over Saint Mary's, they'll take nothing for granted in the rematch.
"We've got a little bit (of a rivalry), yeah, and a chance to take it to a new level tomorrow," he said. "Certainly they're one of the greater opponents we have."
Saturday's game got off to a blazing start, with the teams tied 2-2 by the six-minute mark, and 3-3 within 10 minutes of play.
UQTR held on until midway through the second period, when UNB surged ahead with two more goals, with Dion Campbell pitching in with a goal and an assist.
The third period saw UNB crush all hope for UQTR, with goals from Tyler Carroll, Thomas Nesbitt and Bryce Swan.
"Coming in tonight we knew how important the game was," MacNeil said. "The first 10 minutes had six goals, so we didn't know what type of game it would be."
Despite a two-man disadvantage in the final minutes of the game, UNB held off UQTR with a tenacious penalty kill.
Patriotes coach Gilles Bouchard said his team was laid low with the flu, severely weakening the team's defence.
"The situation wasn't easy, because our two best defencemen couldn't play with us today," he said. "Sadly we had a virus ... these are things you can't help."
UQTR goaltender Marc-Antoine Gelinas could not keep up with UNB's offensive pace, facing a blistering 51 shots. As the second period dragged on he knocked his net off during a prolonged assault from UNB, earning himself a two-minute penalty for delaying the game.
The Reds have won the University Cup four times, most recently in 2011.
Saint Mary's Huskies also enjoyed an emphatic win earlier Saturday, crushing the Warriors 5-1, aided by two goals and three assists from Shawn O'Donnell.
"We're pretty relieved," said coach Trevor Stienburg following the game. "We don't take anything for granted so we feel pretty fortunate."
Cory Tanaka also scored twice and had two assists for Saint Mary's.
Waterloo scored its only goal early in the game when Justin Larson netted his second of the tournament 26 seconds in.
But it was all SMU from there as O'Donnell tied the game at 16:08 and Tanaka made it 2-1 six minutes into the second.
The Huskies put the game away with three quick goals in the third from O'Donnell, Tanaka and Michael Stickland midway through the third period.
"We came out as a desperate team," O'Donnell said. "We kept things simple, and it was just one of those nights the puck was going in."
O'Donnell was named Huskies player of the game. No player has put up as many points in a single game at this tournament since 2005, when the University of Alberta's Ben Kilgour had a six-point game.
Saint Mary's played most of the game without points leader Lucas Bloodoff, who was ejected halfway through the first period after receiving a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a check to the head.
Bloodoff -- who was named CIS player of the year Wednesday night -- was also kicked out during the Huskies' 4-3 overtime loss against the University of Alberta Golden Bears Friday for another check to the head.
Following the game, the CIS discipline committee decided Bloodoff would be allowed to play in the final.
The Warriors spent much of the game on the penalty kill as the Huskies were given seven power-play opportunities but converted only once on Stickland's goal at 14:51 of the third.
Waterloo's Kain Allicock received a five-minute penalty for a check to the head late in the first, and Kirt Hill received another for checking from behind in the third. Both resulted in 10-minute misconducts.
Warriors coach Brian Bourque said his team let their emotion get the better of them.
"We got a little undisciplined for a couple of minutes there, which has not been characteristic of our team this year," he said. "The games are officiated a little bit closer than in league play."
Saint Mary's goalie Anthony Peters stopped 23 shots, displaying some impressive glove work against the Warriors.
Waterloo netminder Keaton Hartigan faced a punishing 50 shots on goal.
The Huskies are looking for a second University Cup title since winning it for the first time in 2010. The team lost in the CIS finals four years in a row to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues between 1970 and 1973, making Sunday their sixth appearance in the national finals.