X-Men move into third place with win over Huskies

Photo credit Eduardo Ibarra
Photo credit Eduardo Ibarra

HALIFAX, NS – St. Francis Xavier goaltender Joseph Raaymakers stopped 29 shots, leading the X-Men to a 4-2 win over the Saint Mary's Huskies in Atlantic University Sport Men's Hockey action on Friday night at the Dauphinee Centre in Halifax.

It was a tepid start to the game, with nearly eight minutes ticking off the clock before the first shot on goal, which was recorded by X-Men forward Jacob Stewart (Antigonish, NS) but turned away by Matt Welsh.

While scoring opportunities were few and far between in the early going, the two teams set a physical tone. A skirmish midway through the period resulted in a Huskies four-on-three powerplay, where the Huskies were able to generate several shots but none on goal, as the X-Men penalty killers were able to block a couple shots.

The Huskies best chance of the first period came with just over four minutes remaining, as defenceman Caelan McPhee (Ancaster, ON) drove down the right wing and fired a shot from a sharp angle, but it was covered up by X-Men goaltender Joseph Raaymakers (Chatham, ON).

The Huskies outshot the X-Men 7-3 through the opening period, with the two teams heading into intermission scoreless.

The opening minutes of the second period were more of the same, with neither team able to generate many scoring chances. Just over five minutes into the frame, Huskies defenceman Ben Roger (Markham, ON) was penalized for crosschecking and the X-Men took advantage on the ensuing powerplay. Forward Liam Hawel (Arnprior, ON) fired a shot off the end boards that ricocheted onto the stick of Zack Trott (Mulmur, ON) who stuffed it past Welsh, putting the visitors up 1-0, 6:10 into the second period.

Several minutes later the X-Men nearly doubled their lead, as forward Sam Allison (Cole Harbour, NS) and defenceman Charlie Callaghan (Toronto, ON) had two shots from in tight, but Welsh was somehow able to track them through a scramble in front of his net and kept the puck out.

The X-Men would double their lead with just over seven minutes remaining in the period, as forward Matthew Philip (Ilderton, ON) skated down the right wing and dropped a pass to trailing defenceman Raegan Wiles (Calgary, AB) who wired a one-timer high over Welsh's glove to put the visitors ahead 2-0.

Several moments later the Huskies cut into the X-Men lead, as defenceman Dennis Busby (Oro-Medonte, ON) took a pass from partner Jaxon Bellamy (Hampton, NB), skated through several X-Men and fired a wrist-shot for the powerplay marker, cutting the X-Men lead to 2-1 with 4:30 remaining in the second period.

The Huskies outshot the X-Men 18-9 in the second period, and took a commanding 25-12 advantage into intermission, but it was the X-Men who led 2-1 on the scoreboard.

Just 40 seconds into the third period, the X-Men would restore their two goal lead, as Matthew Philip made a quick turn in the Huskies zone, and attempted to split a pair of defenders – he was knocked over but somehow managed to direct the puck past Welsh while lying on the ice to put the visitors up 3-1.

But the Huskies would once again cut into the X-Men lead, just three minutes later, as forward Cedric Ralph (Peterborough, ON) picked up a loose puck at the X-Men blueline and dished a pass to Ben Higgins on his left wing, who cut in on goal and stuffed it past Raaymakers to cut the X-Men lead to 3-2.

Saint Mary's seemed to find some momentum after Higgins goal, as they peppered Raaymakers with chances, but the veteran X-Men goaltender remained sharp and turned away all attempts.

With just under two minutes remaining, the Huskies had a faceoff in the X-Men zone and pulled Welsh for the extra-attacker and nearly scored, as Bradey Johnson (Lindsay, ON) fired a shot off the post, but Raaymakers was able to cover up to maintain the X-Men lead. The scrambled continued on the following possession, as the MacPherson appeared to have an open shooting lane from the hashmarks, but his stick broke and the shot was blocked.

Saint Mary's kept their playoff intensity up for the final minute of regulation with several more scoring attempts, but X-Men forward Liam Hawel put the nail in the coffin with an empty net goal with 19 seconds remaining, securing the 4-2 victory for STFX.

The Huskies outshot the X-Men 33-23 on the night, with Raaymakers turning away 31 shots for the win and Player of the Game honours, while Welsh made 19 saves in defeat.

The X-Men win improves their record to 15-13-1-0 on the season, putting them in third place in the AUS men's hockey standings. STFX will finish the regular season on home ice on Saturday, as they host the Acadia Axemen (8-15-2-3) at 7 p.m. at the Charles V. Keating Centre in Antigonish.

The Huskies loss drops their record to 14-14-1-0 on the season, fourth place in the AUS standings. Saint Mary's will finish the regular season on Saturday night, as they head down Robie Street to take on their crosstown rivals the Dalhousie Tigers (7-19-2-0) at 7 p.m. at the Halifax Forum.


Recap by Allan April / Saint Mary's Huskies Athletics