Antigonish, NS – The StFX X-Men have advanced to the Subway AUS championship series with a 6-5 victory over the Acadia Axemen Thursday night at the Charles V. Keating Centre in Game 5 of the AUS semifinals. The X-Men won the series 3-2 in front of a sell-out crowd of 1800 fans.
The game started with a ceremonial puck drop from Olympic hockey silver medalist Blayre Turnbull, a native of Stellarton, NS, just 30 minutes up the road from StFX University. Blayre's brother Brent is in his fourth season with the X-Men squad.
In a game that looked to be over after 20 minutes of play as the X-Men scored five first period goals, the Axemen came storming back and nearly mounted a comeback victory.
StFX opened the game with three quick goals within a two-minute span. Jagger Dirk (Penticton, BC) scored on the power play off a blast from just inside the middle of the blue line off a Kristoff Kontos (Pentanguishene, ON) pass 3:41 into the game.
Adam Stevens (Bedford, NS) potted the second X goal at 5:04 after bringing the puck up through the neutral zone and then wristing a shot around the Acadia defense that beat netminder Robert Steeves (St. Joseph-de-Kent, NB) up high.
Nathan Pancel (Ottawa, ON) scored a minute and a half later, as he took a pass in the slot from Regan Spears (Port Hood, NS) and roofed it into the Acadia net.
The Axemen replaced goaltender Robert Steeves after the Pancel goal as four X-Men shots resulted in the three goals to open the first period. First-year netminder Dawson Carty (Burlington, ON) who hadn't seen any game action yet in the series came in as the replacement.
The X-Men got one past Carty four minutes later as Kontos, on the forecheck, stole the puck in the Axemen zone and broke in alone, scoring an unassisted marker to increase the StFX lead to 4-0.
First period scoring rounded out with a goal by team leading scorer Michael Clarke (London, ON) on a 5-on-3 power play. With lots of open ice, he wheeled around the top of the Axemen zone and unleashed a shot that beat Carty.
Despite the 5-0 score in favor of the home squad, it was the Axemen who held a 9-7 shot advantage after the first period. They went 0-for-3 on the power play including a dinged crossbar by Remy Giftopoulos (Ancaster, ON), while X were 2-for-2 on the man-advantage.
Acadia started to claw their way back into the game in the second period, scoring two goals to pull to within 5-2 after 40 minutes.
Fifth-year captain Geoff Schemitsch (Thornhill, ON) got the visitors on the board eight minutes into the middle period as he capitalized on a Giftopoulos rebound.
Kyle Farrell (Howie Corner, NS) added their second goal while shorthanded as he redirected a Rodney Southam (Saskatoon, SK) shot on goal past X netminder Chase Marchand (Halifax, NS).
Shots were 11-3 in favor of the Axemen as the X-Men settled in with their five-goal lead. The Axemen did not let up though as Sam Fioretti (Calgary, AB) pulled his squad to within two goals, scoring at 9:47 of the third period. He pounced on a rebound off the back boards to put it past Marchand.
The X-Men re-gained their three-goal lead with a power-play goal by Kontos just over a minute later. He punched in a rebound off a Santino Centorame (Mississauga, ON) shot.
Acadia answered right back with their second shorthanded goal of the game, this one off the stick of Giftopoulos just 34 seconds after the Kontos goal. He picked off an X puck while on the penalty kill and broke in on Marchand, deking him in a nice move to score with 8:21 left in the game.
As the Axemen continued to pressure, they pulled Carty from the net with 1:40 left to play and it paid off as Stephen Harper (Burlington, ON) found Boston Leier (Saskatoon, SK) down low to the side of the X net and he one-timed the puck past Marchand.
With StFX leading 6-5, and Acadia on the brink of pulling off an amazing comeback, they once again pulled Carty in favor of the extra attacker and were pressuring for the game-tying goal. StFX got called on a tripping penalty with 15 seconds left to play, resulting in a frantic end to the game, though the home team X-Men were able to hold off the Axemen's final attack and earn the victory.
Final shots were 38-17 in favor of Acadia as Chase Marchand had yet another big night in the StFX goal, turning in 33 saves for the win.
With two goals and an assist, X-Men forward Kristoff Kontos earned Subway Player of the Game honours for his team, while Remy Giftopoulos was awarded the Axemen's Subway Player of the Game.
With the win the X-Men advance to the Subway AUS championship final, a best 2-of-3 series against the first place UNB Varsity Reds. Game 1 is scheduled for Monday, March 5th in Fredericton, with Game 2 at StFX on Wednesday, March 7th. Game 3, if necessary, will be back at UNB on Friday, March 9th.
The Axemen's season is not over yet as they will now face-off against Saint Mary's in a best-of-three consolation series to determine the third AUS conference berth at the upcoming U SPORTS national championship.
Acadia will host Game 1 on Monday, followed by Game 2 in Halifax on Wednesday and Game 3, if necessary, at Acadia on Friday.
The U SPORTS Championship is being hosted by UNB from March 15-18.
Courtesy StFX Sports Information