X-Men handle Panthers 5-2

Photo courtesy Dalton King
Photo courtesy Dalton King

Antigonish, N.S. - The CIS #7 ranked StFX X-Men (13-3-2) skated to a 5-2 win over the UPEI Panthers (9-7-2) in AUS hockey action Friday night at the Keating Centre.

The X-Men jumped to a 2-0 advantage after the first period on goals from Mark Tremaine (Dartmouth, NS) and Michael Clarke (London, ON). 

At 3:37, Tremaine tallied unassisted after poking a loose puck behind Matt Mahalak (Monrow, MI) from the top of the Panther crease.

For Clarke, he ripped a hard wrist that rang in off the goal post, after he took a nifty backhand pass from Nathan Pancel (Ottawa, ON). Adam Stevens (Bedford, NS) collected the other helper.

The best scoring opportunity for the Panthers in the first period came midway through the opening 20 minutes, when the trio of Brent Andrews (Hunter River, PEI), Marcus Power (St. John's NL) and Mason Wilgosh (Winnipeg, MB) broke into the X-Men zone. Wilgosh completed a slick three-way passing play, but his hard re-direction sailed wide behind StFX goaltender Brandon Hope (Canton, MI).

The Panthers came up empty on the only power play chance of the first period.

In the opening seconds of the second period, the Panthers had a golden opportunity to cut into the X-Men lead, when Nathan Chiarlitti (Maple, ON) coughed up the puck inside his own blue line, with Beni Berisha (Mississauga, ON) getting a hard shot away that Hope turned aside with the blocker.

At 3:09, the X-Men extended to a 3-0 edge when Brent Turnbull (Stellarton, NS) beat Mahalak high to the short side with a quick wrist shot. He took a centering pass from Steven Kuhn (Oyen, AB), who caused a Panther turnover behind the net. Tremaine garnered the other assist.

With goals less than three minutes apart, midway through the second period, the Panthers sliced the X-Men lead to 3-2.

At 8:49, Cole MacMillan (Stanhope, PEI) scored on assists from Chad Labelle (Calgary, AB) and Wilgosh. Hope made the initial save on MacMillan's shot from just inside the blue line, but the Panther forward got around the X-Men defender to collect the rebound before tallying top shelf.

After a lengthy fore-check deep in the X-Men zone, the visitors cut the deficit to one, with Berisha the marksmen at 11:17. He took a centering pass from Brent Andrews (Hunter River, PEI) and beat Hope from close quarters.

With the Panthers looking for the equalizer, the X-Men killed a pair of penalties, with Hope making a couple key saves on Labelle to preserve the home side lead.

At 17:24, the X-Men doubled their advantage on a great individual effort from Chiarlitti, who gathered the puck just inside the Panther blue line and circled the net for a wrap-around opportunity. It slid off his stick, but he regained possession and snapped a high shot over Mahalak's shoulder to make it 4-2. Pancel collected the lone assist.

At the 1:03 mark of the third period, the X-Men regained their three-goal edge on a superb tic-tac-toe passing play during a 5-on-3 power play. Clarke, with his second of the game, tallied from Holden Cook (Oshawa, ON) and Eric Locke (Toronto, ON).

With the Panthers trying to rebound, the X-Men played well defensively, including killing a four-minute penalty midway through the third period.

Hope recorded 22 saves for the win, while Mahalak turned aside 32 shots in the loss.

Clarke was the Subway player of the game and first star, with Tremaine and Pancel named second and third stars, respectively.

The Panthers return to action Saturday, Jan. 16, when they visit the Dalhousie Tigers in Halifax, while the X-Men will be back on home ice, with the CIS #4-ranked UNB Varsity coming to town.

Puck drop for both match-ups is 7 p.m.