Wolfville, N.S. – The StFX X-Men spoiled the Acadia Axemen's first playoff game of the season, defeating the Axemen 4-3 in double overtime to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-5 Subway AUS semifinal series.
Freshman defenseman Cole MacDonald (Westaskiwin, AB) was the overtime hero, scoring at 6:28 of the second extra period, while streaking in on a 3-on-2 rush. He fired a wrist shot off a Matt Needham (Penticton, BC) pass that beat a falling Robert Steeves (Moncton, NB) in the Axemen net.
"To be honest, I was just trying to get it (the shot) on net," commented MacDonald when asked what he was thinking leading up to the game winner. "If you miss the net, it's not going to go in obviously. I was just trying to get a quick shot off and luckily it went it."
The Axemen dominated for long stretches of the game, but were constantly playing catch up, as they fell behind 2-0 after the first period, before tying the game up in the second and forcing overtime in the third frame.
The X-Men scored on the man-advantage to jump out to a 1-0 lead at 13:46 of the first period. The goal came from StFX forward Kristoff Kontos (Penetanguishene, ON), who let a wrist shot go that caught the top left corner, breaking Steeves' water bottle.
The X-Men added to their lead with a goal from rookie forward Needham with under two minutes left in the period. He scored in tight on Steeves from a rebounded shot from the point, flipping the puck up over Steeves' shoulder.
Acadia led 16-13 in shots by the end of the first, despite trailing 2-0.
Refusing to let the game get away from them, the Axemen managed to tie the game in the second period, with goals from veterans Remy Giftopoulos (Ancaster, ON) and Brett Thompson (Sault Ste. Marie, ON).
The first goal of the second frame came from Giftopoulos on the penalty-kill, one-minute into the period. He stole the puck in the X-Men zone and fired a shot into the top left corner of the net, past StFX goalie Chase Marchand (Halifax, NS).
Axemen forward Kyle Farrell (Howie Center, NS), fired a stretch pass from the defensive zone, up to Boston Leier (Saskatoon, SK), who came in on a 2-on-1 break with Thompson and held onto to the puck coming in on the left side of the ice. After drawing the defenseman's stick over to his side, Leier ripped a crisp pass across to Thompson, who buried the puck into the top right corner of the net, past a sprawling Marchand to tie the game at 2-2.
Penalty trouble for Acadia led to the X-Men taking a 3-2 lead with 7:13 remaining in the third period.
The power-play goal came from StFX's Bryson Cianfrone (Stoney Creek, ON) on a point shot that went in past a crowd in front of the Axemen net.
That lead did not last for long as rookie Axeman Stephen Harper (Burlington, ON), tied the game once again with 4:21 left to play in regulation time. Thinking he had the puck covered, X-Men goalie Chase Marchand sat waiting for the whistle with the puck showing between his legs. Harper flew in and jammed the puck between his legs and into the net for the tying goal.
With the game tied at three after regulation time, a sudden death 10-minute overtime period was to decide the winner.
Although the first overtime period saw good chances from both sides, neither team could capitalize, forcing a second overtime period of 20-minutes sudden death and setting up MacDonald's game winner.
Axemen goaltender Steeves turned aside 27 of 31 shots, while his StFX counterpart Marchand stopped 45 of 48 shots on the night.
Subway player of the game and first star honors went to MacDonald, while second and third stars of the night went to Leier and Marchand, respectively.
Game 2 of the best-of-five semifinal series takes place Friday night in Wolfville, with puck drop at 7:00 pm. The series shifts to Antigonish, NS for Game 3 on Monday, February 27th.