X-Men defeat Panthers in high-scoring affair

Courtesy Caitlyn McLeod
Courtesy Caitlyn McLeod

Antigonish, NS – The U Sports ranked No. 2 StFX X-Men defeated the No. 9 ranked UPEI Panthers 8-4 in a high scoring, penalty-filled affair Saturday evening at the Charles V. Keating Centre.

X-Men forward and Subway player of the game Eric Locke (Toronto, ON) scored a hat trick for the home team who jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first period.

Freshman forward Bryson Cianfrone (Stoney Creek, ON) opened the scoring at 8:22, finishing off a nice breakout with Matt Needham (Penticton, BC) and Cole MacDonald (Wetaskiwin, AB).

Locke scored his first of the night on the power play at 10:16 from Michael Clarke (London, ON) and MacDonald, just five seconds into the man-advantage that saw Panthers defenseman Derek Ryckman (Red Deer, AB) sent off for contact to the head and a game misconduct.

Regan Spears (Port Hood, NS) rounded out the first period scoring with just over two minutes left in the period, showing great skill in notching his first goal as an X-Man. Needham, with his second point of the night and Cianfrone, had the assists.

The X-Men held a 15-10 shot advantage in the opening period.

The second period brought four unanswered StFX goals but also saw 47 penalty minutes assessed to UPEI and 30 to StFX as the teams needed to be broken up on a couple of instances.

The fourth X-Men goal came from Jagger Dirk (Penticton, BC) at 8:31 on the power play as he fired a wrist shot from the point that went by a screened Panthers goalie Matt Mahalak (Monrow, MI). Assists came  from Craig Duininck (St. Cloud, MN) and Needham.

Locke's second goal of the night came off a one-timer off a perfect pass from Kristoff Kontos (Penetanguishene, ON) at the 12 minute mark.

Holden Cook (Oshawa, ON) made a nice pass on the power-play when he found an open Clarke to put the X-Men up by six. Kontos also picked up an assist.

Anthony DiFruscia (Thoroold, ON) rounded out the second period scoring when he tipped a point shot by MacDonald with the second assist going to Mark Tremaine (Dartmouth, NS).

With a commanding 7-0 lead after 40 minutes, the X-Men outshot the Panthers 16-6 in the middle period.

Locke completed his hat-trick and ended the evening's scoring for the X-Men at 4:37 of the third period.  The goal was assisted by both Kontos and Adam Stevens (Bedford, NS) and came at the end of a shift after a series of nice passes.

Despite being down by an 8-0 score, the Panthers showed great resilience in the third period and were able to slice the lead in half with four unanswered goals of their own.

Austin Levi (Farmington Hills, MI) got UPEI on the board at 5:44 when he put a wrist shot from the blue line past a screened Brandon Hope (Canton, MI) in the StFX net.  His defensive partner Brock Beukeboom (Port Perry, ON) assisted on the play.

Cody Payne (Davie, FL) then scored less than a minute later at 6:42 when he took advantage of a face-off win by Gabe Guertier (Plantation, FL) and beat Hope with a sharp shot to the short side. JC Campagna (Dublin, OH) also picked up a helper.

Nearing the end of the period, Nelson Armstrong (Peterborough, ON) scored on the power play for UPEI, from Casey Babineau (Truro, NS) and Chad Labelle (Calgary, AB). Labelle zipped a pass along the boards to the defenceman Babineau who quickly fed Armstrong the puck. He ripped a shot that was in and out of the StFX net in a flash.

Beni Berisha (Mississauga, ON) ended the high-scoring affair when he fired a shot from just inside the blue line. The goal came after Riley Whittingham (Calgary, AB) foiled an attempted X-Men break-out and put a hard shot on net and the rebound ended right on Berisha's stick.

Shots in the third period favored the Panthers at 16-6 and were 37-32 overall in favor of the X-Men.

Hope earned the win in nets for the X-Men with 32 saves. Connor Wilkinson (Ajax, ON) with seven saves and one goal against, and Mahalak with 22 saves and seven goals against, split the goaltending duties for the Panthers.

StFX's MacDonald picked up second star honors while UPEI's Armstrong was the game's third star.

The X-Men (9-4-0) next see action on Wednesday, November 16th when they host the Acadia Axemen (7-5-0) at the Keating Centre. Puck drop is 7:00 pm.

Panthers (5-5-2) will also be playing Wednesday night. They will host the first place UNB Varsity Reds (10-0-2), also at 7:00 pm.