Antigonish, NS – The StFX X-Men (16-11-2) locked up third place in the AUS standings with a 3-2 victory over the Saint Mary's Huskies (14-14-1) Friday night at the Charles V. Keating Centre.
The X-Men opened up a 2-0 lead after the first period of play. Freshman forward Bryson Cianfrone (Stoney Creek, ON) scored 1:50 into the game on a nice passing play from Kristoff Kontos (Penetanguishene, ON) and Cole Macdonald (Wetaskawin, AB).
Michael Curtis (Georgetown, ON) and Hunter Garlent (Thorold, ON) nearly tied it up on a 2-on-1 chance while on the power play but StFX's Chase Marchand (Halifax, NS) came through with a good save.
Holden Cook (Oshawa, ON) notched the second X goal with only 34 seconds left in the period, connecting on a pass from Eric Locke (Toronto, ON) who made a nice feed from the side of the Huskies net. Michael Clarke (London, ON) also had a helper on the play.
Shots were even at 10 apiece on the opening period.
Clarke and Locke nearly connected again early in the second period but Locke was stopped point blank by Eric Brassard (St. Hubert, QC) in the SMU goal. The X-Men continued to have some good chances in the second period but Brassard kept his team in the game.
The Huskies finally solved Marchand at the 12:30 mark when Bronson Beaton (Springhill, ON) passed the puck to Curtis who was in the slot and beat a screened Marchand. Anthony Repaci (Toronto, ON) also picked up an assist.
Marchand later came up with a big save off a Garlent shot as the Huskies continued to pressure in the final five minutes of the period, looking for the tying goal.
The X-Men re-gained their two-goal lead at 17:26 off a Max Iafrate tally. He skated down ice on a 3-on-1 and as Cianfrone quickly brought the puck into the SMU zone alongside Iafrate, he made a quick, short pass across to the defenseman who roofed it past Brassard.
Saint Mary's came right back, however, and scored a minute later as Garlent was open in front of the StFX net and he tipped in the puck over the shoulder of Marchand. Mark Triccett (Baddeck, NS) and Beaton assisted.
The X-Men outshot the visitors 13-10 in the middle period as they took a 3-2 lead into the dressing room.
The third period saw penalties to both teams early on but no goals.
On a Huskies power play eight minutes in, it was the X-Men who garnered the best scoring chance as they found themselves on a 3-on-1 but Brassard came through with consecutive saves.
In a fast-paced period, the Huskies pressed for the game-tying goal. They pulled Brassard with 1:20 left in the period and despite a flurry of shots were unable to find the back of the net.
Final shots were 30-25 in favor of StFX as Marchand had 23 saves. Brassard turned aside 27 pucks.
Cianfrone earned first star and Subway player of the game honors for his two-point effort. Saint Mary's forward Curtis was second star and StFX's Clarke was the third star of the game.
Both the X-Men and Huskies - in fourth place - have secured home ice advantage in the upcoming Subway AUS quarter-finals.
There is one day remaining in regular season play, the X-Men will travel to Wolfville, NS on Saturday night to play the second place Acadia Axemen (19-8-2), while the Huskies will host seventh place Dalhousie (8-18-3). Game time is 7:00 pm for both events.
Looking ahead to the best-of-three AUS quarter-finals, the X-Men will play the sixth place Moncton Aigles Bleus (10-17-3), while the Huskies will meet the fifth place UPEI Panthers (11-14-4). The first place UNB Varsity Reds (24-2-3) and second place Axemen have received a first round playoff byes and await the quarter-finals winners for the best-of-five semifinals.
The X-Men open their quarter-final series against Moncton on Wednesday, February 15th at 7:00 pm at the StFX Keating Centre.