Antigonish, NS- The StFX X-Men (5-0-0) delivered an exhilarating 90 minutes of soccer as they battled to a 3-1 victory over the Memorial Sea-Hawks (2-3-1) on Sunday afternoon.
The X-Men, who entered the week ranked 6th in the U SPORTS national rankings, were undeterred by the wet and windy conditions as they set the tone for the game from the first whistle.
The first eight minutes of action saw two goals scored, one each for the X-Men and Sea-Hawks. Less than two minutes into the match, the league's leading goal scorer Emmanuel Dolo (St. John's, NL) capitalized on a misplayed clearance by goalkeeper Seamus MacDonald (Antigonish, NS) and launched the ball into the back of the net past a diving MacDonald.
Unwilling to go down without a fight, the X-Men immediately responded and put pressure on the Sea-Hawks back line. It only took a few minutes for StFX to bring the game to 1-1. In the seventh minute, Blake Fenton (Halifax, NS) took an excellent touch to beat a Memorial defender, deftly playing the ball across the box and to the feet of Carson Ripoll (New Glasgow, NS) who slotted the ball into the net from the near post.
The X-Men were relentless following the goal, putting the Sea-Hawks defenders under heavy pressure and firing off several shots.
Throughout the half, both teams put on a stellar display of soccer, with moments of excellent movement on the pitch and demonstrations of strong ball control. Memorial's Dolo continued to threaten the StFX defence, but veteran defender Josh Read (Bath, ENG) ensured a mature and composed presence, with first year Luke Green (Fall River, NS) and Logan Harrington (Halifax, NS) also stepping in to clean up in the back.
Sea-Hawks goalkeeper Dylan Crichton (Torbay, NL) fought hard to keep the score even, making a stretching save in the 18th minute off a shot from Ripoll. With the X-Men refusing to back down, the Memorial defence did well to assess the offensive risk and remain compact in the centre of the field, not allowing any X-Men forwards an easy shot on goal.
As the weather conditions deteriorated heading into halftime, the game turned into a physical battle as both teams worked to break the deadlock. In the 41st minute, X-Men goalkeeper MacDonald made an excellent save on a low, driven ball, cleanly collecting it in his hands.
Entering the second half, both teams came out determined, earning several opportunities on goal. Memorial's Cabhan O'Keefe (Lawn, NF) managed three strikes on the X-Men goal in the opening five minutes but MacDonald and the StFX defenders kept their composure and prevented those opportunities. Logan Rieck (London, ON) assisted the X-Men in their offensive attack but Sea-Hawks captain Harry Carter (St. John's, NL) maintained a strong presence in the defence.
Dolo continued to provide an offensive presence for the Sea-Hawks, taking on three X-Men defenders in the 66th minute and earning a corner kick from his efforts. However, Lewis Dye (Fall River, NS) did well to force the Memorial striker wide and prevented further scoring opportunities.
The X-Men saw their attacking efforts pay off in the 71st minute as Memorial drew a foul at the 33-yard mark. NCAA transfer Cam Shaw (Ottawa, ON) stepped up for the free kick, placing the ball in the box for a stunning header by Ziad Abdelrahman (Toronto, ON) to earn his second goal of the season.
The Sea-Hawks refused to go down without a fight and defender Alex Dolomount (St. John's NL) contributed to the attack, firing a shot near post and forcing MacDonald to make a quick reaction save in the 77th minute.
As the game drew to a close, the X-Men sealed the victory in a 90th minute goal from Kyle Cordeiro (Oakville, ON), who currently leads the X-Men for goals scored. Fenton drove the ball down the wing and delivered a cross in, with Reick attempting to drive the ball into the net. Cordeiro made sure to win the rebound, driving the ball into the net past the outstretched Sea-Hawks goalkeeper.
In his post-game remarks, X-Men head coach Graham Kennedy called the victory a "character win," noting that the X-Men refused to hang their heads, despite conceding a goal early in the game. He noted that Memorial was a "strong opponent with some dangerous players," but that the X-Men managed the game well.
Cam Shaw was named the Subway Player of the Game for the X-Men.
StFX tallied 25 shots over the course of the match, while the Sea-Hawks hit back with 19 shots. Memorial goalkeeper Crichton made 11 saves, while StFX's MacDonald recorded 7.
The Sea-Hawks return to action in a doubleheader at home against the University of New Brunswick on Saturday.
The X-Men will look to continue their winning streak against Cape Breton University (3-1-1) in a 7:15 pm home game this Friday.
Courtesy Alyssa Spridgeon, STFX Sports Information