(Halifax, NS) The StFX X-Men picked up a 4-2 win over the SMU Huskies in a Wednesday night heavyweight tilt between two U Sports Top-10 teams at the Halifax Forum.
It was an even battle for the first 50-minutes before the X-Men pulled away with two-goals in the back half of the third.
The X-Men (12-1-2), who came in fourth in this weeks U Sports Top-10, move into a tie with the UNB Varsity Reds atop the AUS with 26-points; though the X-Men have played one more game.
Saint Mary's (10-4-1), who jumped to sixth in this weeks U Sports rankings, sit third in the AUS with 21-points. They are two-points up on the Acadia Axemen with one more game played. It was the first loss the Huskies have suffered in November, snapping a six-game winning streak.
Michael Clarke (London, Ont.), Mark Tremaine (Dartmouth, N.S.), Nathan Pancel (Ottawa, Ont.) and Anthony Difruscia (Thorold, Ont.) lit the lamp for the X-Men.
Chase Marchand (Halifax, N.S.) made 30 saves to pick up the win in his hometown. He boosted his record to 8-1 this season.
Eric Brassard (St. Hubert, Que.) made 22 saves as his record fell to 5-3.
Coughler got the scoring started 8:08 into the first. The Huskies got the cycle game going in the offensive zone and Dylan DiPerna (Nobleton, Ont.) pinched in from the point to poke it to Noah Zilbert (Fredericton, N.B.) in the slot. Zilbert made a slick backhand pass to Coughler who made a sweet stick-between-the-legs redirection in front for the goal.
Clarke tied it up at 1-1 just over three-minutes later. Tremaine made a nice play on the left-wing wall to hold the puck in. He pushed it up to Holden Cook (Oshawa, Ont.) on the half-wall and Cook spotted Clarke all alone in the high-slot. Clarke settled it down before ripping a half-clapper just inside the post low-glove.
Tremaine put the X-Men out front 2-1 at the 18:16 mark of the first. Jagger Dirk (Penticton, B.C.) corralled the puck below his own goal-line and made a short pass to Adam Stevens (Bedford, N.S.) at the bottom of the defensive left-circle. Stevens flipped a lob pass up ice for Tremaine and Brassard charged out of his net to play it but Tremaine won the race and chipped it over the sprawled out Brassard into the open net.
The X-Men outshot the Huskies 10-7 in the first.
Johnson drew Saint Mary's even again at the 17:38 mark of the second. Just after an X-Men penalty expired, Anthony Repaci (Toronto, Ont.) left the puck for DiPerna at the right-point and DiPerna sent it down low to Taylor Burke (Halifax, N.S.). Burke slid a beauty feed from the right of the net to Repaci on the doorstep and he made a quick move to a backhand shot low-blocker.
The Huskies peppered Marchand with 15-shots in the second but could only beat him once.
Pancel scored the game winner at the 12:35 mark of the third. With a faceoff in the attacking left circle in the Huskies zone, Kristoff Kontos (Penetanguishene, Ont.) won the draw and Regan Spears (Pot Hood, N.S.) jumped on it from his left-wing spot to play it back to Cody Hendsbee (Richmond, Ont.) on the right-point. Hendsbee had his first shot blocked but got it right back and sent it on goal. Pancel, battling for position, tipped it in from the right-slot hash-marks.
Difruscia made it 4-2 X-Men at the 15:28 mark. Dirk picked up the puck off a rebound at the left-dot in his own zone and sent a lead pass up ice that sprung Difruscia on a blue-line breakaway. Difruscia made a move to his backhand across the top of the crease and buried it over the pad.
The Huskies won the shot battle in the third 10-8 and overall 32-26 but the X-Men did a better job capitalizing on their opportunities.
On the power-play the X-Men went zero-for-seven, while SMU were zero-for-four.
Up next, The X-Men host the Axemen in Antigonish, N.S., while SMU are back at the Halifax Forum to face their crosstown rival Dalhousie Tigers. Both games are on Friday, November 24 with a 7:00p.m. AST puck drop.
By Cam Honey-Webb
Photo Nick Pearce