Antigonish, NS - The U SPORTS No. 1 ranked StFX X-Men topped the visiting University of Prince Edward Island Panthers 5-2 in AUS play Friday night at the Keating Centre. The X-Men avenged a shootout loss to the Panthers last weekend in Charlottetown.
The opening 20 minutes saw no goals for either team, but did set the stage for an evening full of very physical play. Two players from each team served minor penalties in the first period, with UPEI serving a total of 16 penalty minutes in the game and StFX serving 12.
Shots in the first period favoured StFX 15-9.
Second period action saw opening goal come at 2:25 while the X-Men were on the power play when Cole MacDonald (Wetaskiwin, AB) was able to get in front of an open UPEI net. From the point Cody Hensbee (Richmond, ON) passed to Bryson Cianfrone (Stoney Creek, ON) who had stationed himself at the top of the circle. Cianfrone passed through the slot to MacDonald who easily found the back of the net.
Less than three minutes later X-Men forward Matt Needham (Penticton, BC) added his first marker of the evening. During a play in the neutral zone Needham passed off the boards to Cianfrone, who entered the UPEI zone with Needham on a two-on-two. Cianfrone passed to Needham through the slot, and Needham one-timed it past UPEI goaltender Matthew Mancina (Windsor, ON).
UPEI responded with their first goal 7:43 into the second. While in the X-Men zone, Panthers forward Marcus Power (St. John's, NL) gained control of the puck and passed it to forward Beni Berisha (Mississauga, ON) at the point. Berisha took a shot on goal, which was tipped in by Gabe Guertler (Plantation, FL).
A minute and a half later StFX regained their two-goal lead off a tally from Hensbee. From behind the net Anthony DiFruscia (Thorold, ON) passed to Needham who found Hendsbee wide open in the slot. Hendsbee out-manoeuvred Mancina and scored on his backhand.
The games final frame saw the X-Men capitalize off a failed UPEI breakaway. Following StFX goaltender Brandon Hope's (Canton, MI) poke-check save on Power's rush, Mark Tremaine (Dartmouth, NS) started the breakout from the X-Men zone with Michael Clarke (London, ON). Clarke passed across to Tremaine, who beat Mancina high on his glove side.
The final goal for the X-Men came 5:31 into the third period, off a shot that rebounded off the glass behind Mancina and over the top of the net. Needham found the puck during the chaos in front of the net and was able to get a shot past Mancina. Credited with assists on the goal were Cianfrone and Tremaine.
UPEI narrowed the X-Men's lead with the final goal of the evening at 8:35 while on the power-play. As time was running out, a scramble ensued in front of the X-Men net. While Hope made a kick save initially, Beau McCue (Pasco, WA) was able to bury a rebound as assisted by Power and Ryan MacKinnon (Summerside, PE).
Total shots in the game favoured StFX at 43-34. Needham, with his three-point effort, was awarded Subway player of the game and first star honors. Cianfrone was the second star and UPEI's Guertler was third star.
The X-Men play again Saturday night at home facing off against the No. 3 seeded UNB Varsity Reds in a battle of the top two teams in the AUS. The Panthers travel to Halifax to visit the Dalhousie Tigers. Both games start at 7pm.
Courtesy Kiana Pace, StFX Sports Information