Wolfville, NS – The No. 5 seeded STFX X-Men fell 7-3 to the top seeded Alberta Golden Bears in the first semifinal game Saturday afternoon at the Cavendish University Cup.
After an even first period, the Bears scored three goals in the second and the X-Men went 1-5 on power play chances as they were eliminated from gold medal contention.
Fifth year captain Santino Centorame noted after the game that it obviously it was a tough loss, his teammates played the "best they could but there's not much to say after a tough loss like that."
The two squads last faced each other at the national level at the 2018 championship in Fredericton, NB where Alberta defeated the X-Men 4-2 in the gold medal game.
The opening period was fast-paced as the AUS finalist X-Men came out hard hitting on the Canada West champion Golden Bears.
U SPORTS second team all-Canadian forward Matthew Struthers opened the scoring for STFX after he picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, skated up ice, looked to pass but took the shot himself and beat Alberta goaltender Taz Burman with a quick shot. The unassisted marker came at 12:44 of the first period.
Alberta evened the score with 1:26 left in the period while on the power play. Jared Freadrich's shot from the point through a sea of traffic in front of the X net beat Joseph Raaymakers.
Shots in the opening frame were 10-7 in favour of Alberta.
The Golden Bears scored a second power play goal 1:34 into the second period as Eric Florchuk was in front of the net to tip in Dawson Davidson's shot from the top of the slot.
The X-Men then had three consecutive power play opportunities of their own, but could not convert. Jacob Hudson dinged one off the post towards the end of the second man-advantage.
After STFX had trouble clearing the puck from their defensive end, Golden Bears defenseman Wyatt MacLeod fed a pass down low to Gary Haden at the side of the X net. He one-timed the puck across to Josh Prokop who deposited into the open net as Raaymakers had no chance.
The goal gave Alberta a 3-1 lead seven minutes into the middle period.
After the X-Men were held off the scoreboard on yet another power play chance, the Golden Bears scored just after their penalty kill expired. Freadrich brought the puck across the blue line and fed an open Florchuk in the slot as he split the X defense and wired a quick, high shot past Raaymakers, scoring his second goal of the game.
STFX were pressuring for a goal in the dying seconds of the period and nearly deposited the puck off a goal-mouth scramble but Burman held strong in the Golden Bears net.
Despite being outshot 13-6 in the second period and fighting off four penalties, it was the Golden Bears who scored three unanswered goals to take a 4-1 lead into the locker room after 40 minutes.
Raaymakers denied the Golden Bears four minutes into the third period as he got his stick on the puck that then slid across the goal line but stayed out.
Matthew Philip breathed some life into the STFX offense as he scored their second goal of the game at 5:29 to cut the lead to 4-2. After Liam Hawel fought for the puck inside the Alberta zone he pushed it to an open Philip who skated down the open wing and beat Burman with a high shot.
The X-Men continued to pressure and had a couple more scoring chances but the Golden Bears reversed the momentum three minutes later and Davidson tallied off a pass across the top of the slot from Freadrich.
Faced with a 5-2 deficit and 12 minutes to play, the X-Men dug in, but were fighting both the clock and their Alberta opponents.
The high-flying Golden Bears offense struck again with seven minutes left in the game as Noah Philip brought the puck up ice on a 2-on-1 and elected to shoot, scoring unassisted on a high shot.
Zack Trott tallied for the X-Men at 14:58 while on the power play, banging in a rebound as Hawel had a helper on the play.
Alberta responded less than two minutes later as Haden scored their seventh and final goal of the game on an odd man rush as the game closed out 7-2 for the Golden Bears.
Final shots favoured the X-Men at 35-28. Philip received player of the game honours for STFX while Florchuk was Alberta's player of the game for his three-point performance.
Coach Peddle noted after the game that it was an "invaluable experience for all the younger guys on the team, and that they will get another turn." He was particularly thoughtful towards the veteran athletes on his team noting, "our graduating guys have been a big part of our program and have been to a lot of national championships and all our younger guys had wanted it for them."
With the win, the Golden Bears advances to gold medal game Sunday night at 7:30 pm versus the winner of the Ryerson Rams and UQTR Patriotes. The X-Men will play the other semifinal loser for the bronze medal Sunday at 1:00 pm.
Looking ahead to the bronze medal match Coach Peddle said, "Although we have a very discouraged group right now and rightfully so as there was a lot of belief in that room, we will re-group. We did alot of things well today but it just wouldn't go our way. We have a high character group, we'll take some time to let this heal tonight and we'll be ready for tomorrow."
Courtesy Krista McKenna, STFX Athletics