(Antigonish, N.S.) - In a battle of the top two teams in the AUS, the StFX X-Men (9-1-2), ranked #6 in the CIS, skated to a 6-5 win over the second-ranked UNB Varsity Reds (8-2-2) Friday night at the Keating Centre.
With the win, the X-Men moved into sole possession of top spot in the conference with 20 points.
The visiting Varsity Reds opened the scoring at the 1:24 mark of the first period, when Christopher Caissy (Campbellton, NB) re-directed a Matt Petgrave (Brampton, ON) point shot over the shoulder of X-Men goaltender Drew Owsley (Lethbridge, AB). It was the first shot on goal of the game for UNB.
Less than three minutes later, at 3:52, the X-Men knotted the contest on a marker from Adam Stevens (Bedford, NS). Kristoff Kontos (Penetanguishene, ON) and Eric Locke (Toronto, ON) notched the assists.
At 7:51, the X-Men took their first lead, when Brad Cuzner (Glace Bay, NS) beat UNB netminder Alex Dubeau (Mascouche, QC) from the slot with a low screen shot. Blake Gal (Lethbridge, AB) and Nathan Chiarlitti (Maple, ON) collected the helpers.
The X-Men doubled their advantage when they capitalized on a UNB turnover at the 17:39 mark. Nathan Pancel (Ottawa, ON) took the set-up from his fellow freshman line-mates - Michael Clarke (Peterborough, ON) and Holden Cook (Oshawa, ON).
The Varsity Reds had a couple chances to carve into the X-Men lead, but Owsley thwarted the attempts, including a shoulder save off a hard wrist shot from UNB defenseman Jordan Murray (Riverview, NB), who made a great solo rush on the power play.
Four goals were scored in a fast-paced second period - two apiece for both clubs - which featured plenty of special teams action.
Just 32 seconds into the middle frame, on the power play, Rob Mignardi (Richmond Hill, ON) scored unassisted. He made some great moves in the X-Men zone, after picking up the puck off a turnover, before putting a deke on Owsley and depositing a backhander into an open net.
At 11:05, Mignardi keyed the tying goal for the Varsity Reds. He made a rush down the right wing before challenging with a close-in shot that trickled between the pads of Owsley. The puck sat on the X-Men goal line before Varsity Red captain Cam Critchlow (Summerside, PEI) poked in the shorthanded goal.
The X-Men regained their two-goal lead with a pair of power-play goals - just 2:24 apart - in the final minutes of the second period.
At 15:39, Stevens, with his second of the game, banged in his own rebound from the lip of the crease behind Etienne Marcoux (Terrebonne, QC), after taking a centering pass from Locke. Marcoux had replaced Dubeau in the UNB net to start the middle frame.
Michael Clarke (Peterborough, ON), at 18:03, gave the X-Men a 5-3 edge, on an assist from Bronson Maschmeyer (Bruderheim, AB).
Early in the third period, at the 20-second mark, the Varsity Reds cut the deficit in half when Cameron Brace (Markham, ON) roofed a sharp-angle shot short side over the shoulder of Owsley. Murray and Marcoux earned the assists.
At 6:40, Locke caused a turnover behind the UNB goal, before centering to Stevens, who passed to Kontos, who fed Locke on the doorstep. The second-leading AUS scorer beat Marcoux with a backhander.
The two-goal X-Men lead was short-lived, with Francis Beauvillier (St. Hyacinthe, QC) tallying at the 8:44 mark. After keeping the puck just inside the blue line with a great block of a clearing attempt, Randy Gazzola (Thorold, ON) made a move before feeding Beauvillier, who roofed a shot glove side over Owsley.
Late in the game, the Varsity Reds pressed for the equalizer. After they took a timeout, UNB pulled their goaltender. With a couple X-Men penalties thrown in, the visitors had two 6-on-4 opportunities. In the final 15 seconds, Chiarlitti made a couple stellar shot blocks to seal the deal.
Owlsey made 26 saves for the win, while Marcoux and Dubeau turned aside five and 15 shots, respectively, in the loss.
The Subway player of the game and first star was Stevens, with Locke and Brace collecting second and third star selections, respectively.
Both teams will be back in action Saturday night (Nov. 21), with the X-Men hosting the UPEI Panthers, while the Varsity Reds will face the Dalhousie Tigers in Halifax at 7 p.m.
Puck drop for the X-Men-Panther tilt is 8 p.m.