Antigonish, NS - On seniors' day at StFX, the StFX X-Men and Dalhousie Tigers played out an enthralling encounter with only one goal able to separate the sides, a Dan Hayfield (Exeter, UK) goal from the penalty spot in the 88th minute.
The win was a big one for the X-Men (8-1-2) as it not only clinched a playoff spot, but a first-round playoff bye, allowing the X-Men to advance directly to the AUS semi-finals.
This was a match that was contested over every blade of turf at Oland Stadium. There were great battles down both flanks and in the heart of midfield. X-Men rookie Blake Fenton (Halifax, NS) and fifth year Tigers player Kieran Moore (Cornwall, PEI) went toe-to-toe down the wing.
In order to spray passes to the wingers, the ball had to be won in the middle of the pitch. For the X-Men it was seniors Liam Elbourne (Halifax, NS) and Cole Suart (Calgary, AB) up against the classy Fred Bekkers (Halifax, NS) and the crafty Ahmed Abokar (Halifax, NS), all of whom used both courage and skill for the right to gain possession.
While there were numerous corner kicks for both teams, both Dalhousie's TJ Leopold (Bedford, NS) and StFX's Thomas Pieroway (Conception Bay, NL) confidently turned all shots aside. The best chance of the opening half went to the X-Men when Ben Herringer (Calgary, AB) made a nice pass to Hayfield, who forced Leopold to make a great save.
The second half saw more back and forth action and numerous shoulder-to-shoulder challenges. It was difficult for either team to have any sustained periods of possession such was aggressive nature of the team without the ball. There were well timed tackles and also quick closing in on the player in possession.
The deciding moment in the match came when Tane Cabo (London, UK) made a quick move on the Dalhousie defender in the corner of the 18-yard box and the referee adjudged a foul was committed. The referee blew his whistle and pointed straight to the spot. Up stepped the league's leading goal scorer, Dan Hayfield, and he proved why with an assured strike into the corner of the net.
With the goal, his 12th of the season, Hayfield tied the StFX all-time single season scoring record. There are currently four former X-Men with 12-goal seasons on the record book: Cliff Baird (1966), Glenn MacDougall (1988), Jamie Howlett (1988) and Michael Marousek (2011).
The player of the game for Dalhousie was keeper TJ Leopold, while the Subway Player of the Game was awarded to StFX midfielder Cole Suart.
The second place X-Men will travel to Wolfville to face Acadia (5-3-2) on Friday evening to play in their final regular season games.
Dalhousie (4-4-2) has two games left and will host Cape Breton (9-0-1) on Saturday afternoon and UPEI (4-5-1) on Sunday.
The Subway AUS Championship is slated for November 2-5 at Cape Breton University.
GAME NOTE: Prior to the game the X-Men honored their graduating senior athletes: Dustin Benetti, Liam Elbourne, Ben Herringer, Matt Lannan, Dylan Lawrence, Karel Mancal, Thomas Pieroway, Cole Suart, Alex Taylor, Natneal Tecle, Aaron Thibeau and Marco Zanchetta.
Courtesy Bart Sears, StFX Athletics Communications