Antigonish, NS - The U SPORTS No. 1 ranked StFX X-Men (22-2-4) bested the Université de Moncton Aigles Bleus (3-22-2) by a 5-2 score Saturday night at the Charles V. Keating Centre. The crowd of over 500 were treated to a very fast paced and physical 60 minutes of play.
In total the match saw 54 penalty minutes and 15 power play opportunities. The X-Men made the most of special teams play, scoring three power play goals.
The X-Men opened the scoring at 14:10 of the first period. Cole MacDonald (Wetaskiwin, AB) advanced the play towards the Moncton zone where Michael Clarke (London, ON) made a cross-ice pass to Holden Cook (Oshawa, ON). Cook then fired a wrist shot that went top corner on Moncton goaltender Alexi Thibaudeau (Gatineau, QC).
Cook and Clarke added to their multi-point night three and a half minutes later later. Craig Duininck (St. Cloud, MN) passed the puck in the neutral zone to Cook who moved the puck to the glove side of the crease and slid it to Clarke. Clarke fired a shot from his knees, beating Thibaudeau.
The 2-0 X-Men lead held after 20 minutes though shots in the first period favoured the Aigles Bleus 12-9.
StFX added to their lead early in the middle frame. At the 2:26 mark and 32 seconds into a power play, Clarke managed to hold the line and pass to Cook, who moved the puck to Mark Tremaine (Dartmouth, NS). Tremaine had a wide open net and made no mistake, increasing the lead to 3-0 for the home team.
The second goal in this period (11:30) also came while StFX was on the power play. Adam Stevens (Bedford, NS) won a face off in the Moncton zone and drew the puck back to MacDonald. MacDonald passed to Duininck, who was stationed just below the blue line. The X-Men captain fired a slap shot and added his second point of the evening.
Moncton broke the goose egg and got on the board with just five seconds remaining in the period. Moncton's Samuel Leblanc (Moncton, NB) and Samuel Roussy (Paspebiac, QC) rushed X-Men goaltender Brandon Hope (Canton, MI) on a 2-on-1 and went top shelf, solving Hope for the first time in the evening.
Shots in the second period favoured StFX at 15-11 as they held the 4-1 lead after 40 minutes.
The final frame saw Moncton add another tally at 7:04, their final goal of the contest. Following a shot off the post, Alexis Roy (Amos, QC) found the puck and moved it towards Robbie Graham (Richibuctou, NB) in front of the net who manoeuvred the puck past a sprawling Hope.
The game's final goal came midway through the period while the X-Men were on the power play. Following a clearing attempt by Moncton, Hope settled the puck behind his net for Jagger Dirk (Penticton, BC), who made a neutral zone pass to Tremaine. Tremaine sped past Moncton defenceman Beaulac and fired a shot that beat Thibaudeau high on his blocker side, potting his second goal of the night. X-Men goalie Hope was credited with a rare assist on the play.
Final shots in the game favoured StFX 36-32 as Hope picked up the win in the X net with 30 saves. He was named the second star of the game, Moncton's Graham was third star and X-Men forward Tremaine was the game's first star and Subway player of the game for his two-goal effort.
The Aigles Bleus will play again on Wednesday, February 7th when they host the Saint Mary's Huskies. StFX will travel to Fredericton on Friday, February 9th to face-off against the UNB Varsity Reds.
The X-Men and Varsity Reds, No. 1 and 2 in the country, are currently tied with 48 points apiece atop the AUS conference. Following their match-up on Friday night UNB will host Dalhousie on Saturday and StFX travels to UPEI as the final weekend will determine the first place finisher.
Both squads have already earned a first round playoff bye and punched their tickets into their respective best 3-of-5 semifinal series.
Courtesy Kiana Pace, StFX Sports Information