Antigonish, NS – The StFX X-Men forced a deciding Game 5 in the Subway AUS semifinal series with a 6-3 victory over the Saint Mary's Huskies Wednesday evening at the Charles V. Keating Centre. After being down 2-0 in the series, the X-Men won two straight games to even it up and send the series back to Halifax Friday night to determine a winner.
Veteran fifth year X-Men captain Mark Tremaine (Dartmouth, NS) scored two goals in the win and noted that they didn't change their game plan, despite the Huskies scoring a quick goal to start the game.
"Everybody stepped up and played the way they needed to and that's what you need in playoffs. We just kept going and that's the kind of effort we've had in the last three games especially, so we are definitely happy with the momentum we have."
The first period was back and forth play as the teams scored alternating goals to see the game tied 2-2 after 20 minutes.
The Huskies opened the scoring just 12 seconds into the game on their first possession off the opening face-off. Dawson Theade (Brooklin, ON) shoveled a shot towards the StFX net that Chase Marchand (Halifax, NS) easily saved but Aaron Berisha (Mississauga, ON) was already in deep and on the doorstep to tuck in the rebound on the short side of the net.
Tremaine evened things up with a power play marker at 5:29. Cole MacDonald (Westaskiwin, AB) sent a shot on goal from the point that was handled by Eric Brassard (St. Hubert, QC), but not the rebound, as Tremaine was in front to bang the loose puck in.
Saint Mary's regained their lead four minutes later when Berisha tallied his second goal of the game. After Stephen Johnson (Moncton, NB) won a face-off in the X zone, Berisha pounced on the puck, whipped around and ripped a low shot past Marchand.
Adam Stevens (Bedford, NS) notched StFX's second goal with 2:02 left in the first period as he took a pass from MacDonald off the half wall and fired a shot high over the far shoulder of Brassard.
Shots slightly favoured the X-Men at 13-12 in the first period.
StFX took their first lead of the game at the 7:36 mark of the second period as Regan Spears (Port Hood, NS) connected with Adam Holwell (St. John's, NF) on the power play. His shot from the point beat Brassard through traffic to give the home squad the 3-2 edge.
Tremaine gave the X-Men a two-goal lead with just under four minutes left in the period as he re-directed a Daniel Robertson (Windsor, ON) shot into the SMU net past Brassard.
In a physical third period, the Huskies closed the gap when Theade scored eight minutes in, taking a feed from Hunter Garlent (Thorold, ON) in front of the X net.
The blue and white regained their two-goal advantage, however, four minutes later when Spears tipped in a Bailey Webster (Kensington, PE) shot from the point and the X-Men were up 5-3.
The Huskies pressured in the final minutes of play to get back in the game and pulled Brassard from the net with two and a half minutes remaining.
The X-Men were called for interference with 1:15 left in the game, giving SMU a 6-on-4 situation. Stevens sealed the win for X with an empty net goal, however with 45 seconds left on the clock.
Marchand earned his fourth win in the playoffs with 27 saves as the X-Men outshot the Huskies 34-30.
Aaron Berisha was the Subway player of the game for the visiting Huskies, with his two-goal effort. Also with a pair of goals, StFX's Mark Tremaine received Subway player of the game honours for the home team.
With the AUS semifinal series now tied 2-2, Game 5 switches to the Halifax Forum on Friday night.
Looking ahead to the game Tremaine noted, "Game 5 comes down to a roll of the dice and whichever team executes their game plan the best. As long as we stick to our game we will have a good chance."
Puck drop is 7:00 pm on Friday. The winner will advance to the Subway AUS Championship best-of-three final series against the UNB Reds who have already punched their ticket to the final with a 3-0 semifinal series win over UPEI.
A berth in the U SPORTS national championship in Lethbridge, Alta. is also on the line for Friday's winner.
Courtesy Krista McKenna, StFX Sports Information