Antigonish, NS - The StFX X-Men skated to a 3-1 victory over the Dalhousie Tigers in Wednesday night action at the Charles V. Keating Centre.
The X-Men and Tigers played out an entertaining opening period that saw the teams enter the break tied at one. It was a tale of two periods with StFX dominating territorially in the opening ten minutes, then DAL controlling the last half of the period.
StFXX used great breakout passing by their defencemen to enter the Dalhousie zone and had the Tigers on their heels. Against the run of play DAL were the first to score at the 6:17 mark. The Tigers took advantage of a loose X clearance that led to an icing call. The X-Men were unable to clear the zone and rookie Cameron Thompson (Victoria, BC) dispossessed an X player to score on a nice shot that eluded Joseph Raaymakers (Chatham, ON).
Less than a minute later StFX tied the game on a nice tip by Adam Laishram (Ashburn, ON). The goal was the result of a brilliant individual effort by Bryson Cianfrone (Stoney Creek, ON). Cianfrone took a bullet blue line to blue line pass up the middle by Cole MacDonald (Wetaskiwin, AB) and put the puck deep against the Tigers end boards. Cianfrone then made a great move to elude the impressive Connor Welsh (Halifax, NS) and controlled the puck up to the top of the zone. He wristed a shot the perfect height for the skilled Laishram to tip into the corner past Reilly Pickard (Halifax, NS).
Over the next few minutes the X-Men carried the play, and made a number of great individual efforts at the Tigers blue line and created quality shots on net. Unconventionally, but justifiably, Dalhousie bench boss Chris Donnelly called a time-out to address the issue. His plan of action had immediate effect as the Tigers quickly changed course with their defencemen jumping up in the play and creating odd-man rushes. Shots on net at the end of the period were 18-13 for the X-Men.
StFX bookended the middle frame with two goals to take a two-goal lead into the third period.
Antigonish native Declan Smith scored his first goal as an X-Men in the opening minute. It was a goal, once again, created by Bryson Cianfrone. Captain Mark Tremaine (Dartmouth, NS) made a cross-ice pass that Cianfrone cradled expertly as he made his way into the Tigers zone. He then found Smith in the high slot minute on a lasered wrist shot that found its way past the screened Pickard.
For most of the period it was a case of Dalhousie absorbing StFX pressure. The Tigers did well to keep their composure and not resort to aimless clearings. They kept their shape in the defensive zone and their tight passing put them into the X zone when the opportunities arose; however, they were not able to maintain any long spells in the X-Men zone.
Dalhousie's line of Colton Heffley (Swift Current, SK), Jonathan Cyr (Ottawa, ON) and Thompson looked the most dangerous to score, but they did not require Raaymakers to make any highlight reel saves. Chandler Yakimowicz back after two games out, gave the Tigers an extra spark, but could not quite ignite the Tigers offence.
As the period neared completion, the X-Men were pressing in the Tigers zone when Antony DiFruscia (Thorold, ON) - who looked a danger to score throughout the game - found defenceman Daniel Robertson (Windsor, ON), sneaking in from the blue line. He took the cross-ice pass and wired a sharp angled shot in the top far side corner.
StFX outshot the Tigers by a 22-8 margin in the middle period as they held the 3-1 lead.
The final frame was a scoreless affair, but one in which Raaymakers made key saves to preserve the two goal StFX lead. His first key save came in the second minute of play when he made a great pad save coming across his net on a shot by Thompson.
The play for most of the period was fairly even with neither side asserting dominance for an extended period of time. As the period progressed Dalhousie began to push for a goal and found themselves in the StFX zone for longer stretches, but the X-Men remained determined to pass their way out of their own half of the ice. They tried one too many times and with 3:08 remaining DiFruscia found himself flat footed and took a tripping penalty.
Coach Donnelly pulled the impressive Pickard for the extra skater. The Tigers moved the puck around the zone well but with the outstanding penalty-killing duo of Tremaine and Smith, Dalhousie's power play was kept at bay to help secure the victory for StFX.
Dalhousie outshot StFXX 9-8 in the final frame as final shots were 49-31 in favour of the X-Men.
Next on the AUS schedule, Dalhousie (2-7-2) will host UPEI Saturday evening in Halifax, while the X-Men (5-4-2) travel to Charlottetown on Friday evening to face UPEI.
In a pre-game ceremony StFX honoured long-time rink operator Tommy MacDonald who gave 42-years of service as caretaker and Zamboni driver to the ice rinks of StFX, first at the Memorial Rink before moving to the Keating Centre.
Courtesy Bart Sears, StFX Sports Information