(Halifax, NS) The StFX X-Men earned their ticket to the AUS finals and USPORTS nationals with a game five semifinal win against the Saint Mary's Huskies. A 3-1 victory for the X-Men in a hard-hitting game and crowd of 3000 plus at the Halifax Forum.
The X-Men got off to a good start, keeping the Huskies hemmed in their zone with a strong forecheck. They got a scoring chance ten minutes in with a shot from Cole MacDonald (Wetaskiwin, AB) that bounced around in the slot, the net wide open, before Jacob Friend (Bowmanville, ON) cleared it to the corner with a nice defensive play for Saint Mary's.
The Huskies worked the cycle down low well but struggled to get shots that weren't from sharp angles. With five minutes to go, a shot from Bradley Latour (Barrie, ON) was tipped in close by Logan Denoble (Peterborough, ON). Goalie Chase Marchand (Halifax, NS) made the save, but StFX was called for a penalty on the play.
Denoble was hunting for a goal on the ensuing power play, but Aaron Hoyles (Gander, NL) was blocking shots all game to limit scoring chances for the Huskies.
The X-Men opened the scoring late in the period. With two and half minutes to go, William Bower (Saint John, NB) came down the left wing. Kept to the outside by Dylan DiPerna (Nobleton, ON), Bower sent a well-placed backhand shot that beat Eric Brassard (St Hubert, QC) glove side to make it 1-0 for the visiting team. The unassisted goal was Bower's second of the playoffs.
The Huskies pulled even five minutes into the second period, when Hunter Garlent (Thorold, ON) made a beautiful deke around MacDonald at the StFX blue line before firing a low shot that beat Marchand blocker side. It was assisted by Alexander Peters (Blyth, ON) and Nicholas Welsh (Halifax, NS).
Saint Mary's however, then ran into penalty trouble, giving StFX nearly six minutes straight on the man advantage. With five seconds to go until the last penalty expired, Regan Spears (Port Hood, NS) of the X-Men shot the puck and it was accidentally knocked in by Huskies defender Austyn Hardie (Halifax, NS), putting the X-Men up 2-1 with eight minutes to go.
On a late power play of their own, the Huskies had two great chances to tie it up, first with a shot from Jake Coughler (St. Catharine's, ON) that rang off the post, and then with a short range one timer from Garlent on the back door. Marchand made a spectacular save to keep the lead.
Marchand continued to rally the X-Men through the third period, facing 14 shots in the third period and 40 throughout the game.
The Huskies were pressing for a goal and dominated in the final frame, allowing the X-Men only six shots on net, but with a minute and sixteen seconds to go, Adam Holwell (St. John's, NL) got an unassisted empty net goal to put the X-Men up by two. That would be the final score of the game: 3-1.
The Subway Player of the Game for the X-Men with the game winning power play goal was Regan Spears. For the Huskies, Hunter Garlent.
The X-Men will go on to face the UNB Reds in a best-of-five series to determine the AUS champions, and will then go to Lethbridge, Alta for USPORTS nationals March 14-17.
Sarah Moore, SMU
Photo Dylan Hebb