Antigonish, NS - The StFX X-Men defeated the Moncton Aigles Bleus 4-2 in a tight encounter at the Charles V. Keating Centre Friday night to remain undefeated in regular season play.
The X-Men began the game with a number of aggressive shifts and, on one particular play, Nathan Pancel (Ottawa, ON), who was dangerous throughout the game, showed quick hands in front of the net and made a short pass to Kristof Kontos (Penetanguishene, ON) who forced Moncton goalie Alexi Thibaudeau (Riverview, NB) to make a sharp early save.
After the initial X burst, it was Moncton's turn to create scoring chances, many of which came off the rush. Marc-Anthony Thierrien (Nicolet, ON) was particularly impressive as he showed good speed and was sold on the puck as he charged into the StFX zone. Chase Marchand (Halifax, NS) was forced to be assured and in doing so showed good rebound control as Moncton had a number of scoring opportunities.
The first period turned when Moncton defenceman Victor Beaulac (Saint-Hyacinthe, QC) was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for his check from behind on StFX centreman Sam Studnicka (Windsor, ON). StFX made the Aigles Bleus pay with a power play goal by Matt Needham (Penticton, BC). Needham picked up the rebound on a one-time shot by Craig Duininck (St. Cloud, MN) on a nice feed from Cole MacDonald (Wetaskin, AB).
Thierrien, who served the major, was the recipient of a nice pass as he left the box and made a heads-up pass to Jean-François Plante on a two-on-one for Moncton and forced Marchand to come up with his best of many good saves in the period.
Moncton ended the period with the man advantage and, despite some good puck movement, could not solve Marchand.
The X-Men began the second period by finishing off the penalty kill, but their defensive work was not yet done. Moncton's best chance early in the period was a skillful three-way passing play with Theirrien, Mitchell Robillard (Laval-Ouest, QC) and Alexis Roy (Amos, QC) which ended with a great play by Cole MacDonald when he picked up a loose puck in front of his own net and made a nice pass to send X on the rush.
Just as StFX did in the first, Moncton made their power play count when they tied the game at 11:08 in the second period. X-Men defenceman Cody Hendsbee (Richmond, ON) was over-aggressive on a check and was called for a hit-to-the head minor, which carries with it a ten-minute misconduct.
Carl Marois (Montmagny, QC) on a pass from Sébastien Gauthier (Sainte-Julie, QC) made a terrific rush, split the X defence pair and, though the puck got slightly ahead of him, kept his concentration and put a great shot past Marchand.
Both teams went in search of a go-ahead marker, but it was StFX who looked the more dangerous team. Kontos could have had the marker as he was parked on the side of net waiting for a rebound. Moncton's Gauthier was forced to take a hooking penalty on the play.
The X-Men showed skill and patience in equal measure on the power play and it was, once again, MacDonald feeding Duininck for a one-time blast that gave Thibaudeau no chance. The second assist on the goal went to Bryson Cianfrone (Stoney Creek, ON), whose puck-handling ability had the Moncton penalty-killers on their heels.
Moncton evened the score at 9:12 when just 30 seconds before it looked like they could have gone down by two goals. Thibaudeau made a key save on Pancel, who received a great pass from rookie Adam Laishram (Ashburn, ON). Moncton then used their great team speed in transition to enter the StFX zone and it was Plante who equalized with the assist going to Vincent Deslauriers (Blainville, QC).
StFX's pressure in the Moncton zone led to X regaining the lead through Santino Centormame's (Mississauga, ON) first regular season goal as a Xaverian. Centorame took a nice pass from Adam Stevens (Bedford, NS) at the blue line and fired a wrist shot through traffic to give the X-Men a lead they would not relinquish. The second assist went to Needham, whose good work in the offensive zone created numerous scoring chances throughout the evening.
With the net empty, Stevens scored the game's final goal with the assist going to Mark Tremaine (Dartmouth, NS).
The final shots on goal tally was 41 for StFX and 22 for Moncton but, as is so often the case in hockey, it failed to tell the story of what was a closely contested game.
The three stars in the game went to StFX's Chase Marchand (3rd star), Moncton's Jean-François Plante (2nd star) and StFX's Santino Centorame (1st star), who scored the game winner and also earned Subway player of the game honours.
Next on the AUS schedule for the X-Me (7-0-0) is a game in Halifax on Saturday evening to face the Dalhousie Tigers (2-4-1).
The Aigles Bleus (0-6-2) return to action on Wednesday evening when they host UPEI (2-4-1).
Courtesy Bart Sears, StFX Athletics Communications