X-Men drop semifinal heartbreaker in overtime to Reds

Photo credit Vaughan Merchant
Photo credit Vaughan Merchant

Sydney, NS – The third seeded UNB Reds defeated the second seeded StFX X-Men 2-1 in overtime in a come-from-behind win that earned them berths in both the AUS final and the U SPORTS national championship. It was the second consecutive year that the X-Men fell to the Reds in the AUS semifinal game, and the second time it was done in a heartbreaking fashion.

Playing in heavy rains throughout the night and with the X-Men leading 1-0 for the majority of the game, the Reds were awarded a free kick with only three minutes left in the game as X-Men midfielder Ayoub Al Arabi (Halifax, NS) was tagged with a yellow card for a tackle just outside the 18 yard box. AUS rookie of the year Tristan Nkoghe (Sherbrooke, QC) banged it in off the cross bar and into the X net, tying the game and forcing overtime.

Riding on the huge momentum shift in the game, and just one minute into overtime, UNB's Grant Takacs (Woodstock, ON) scored the go-ahead goal off a Matt Quigley (Conquerell Mills, NS) corner kick, redirecting the ball past StFX keeper Seamus MacDonald (Antigonish, NS) after Matt Boem (Mississauga, ON) got the initial touch.

The X-Men then pushed hard for the equalizer, having numerous good chances to tie it up again in overtime. The best chance came in the 117th minute and nearing the end of overtime as X-Men forward Tane Caubo (London, ENG) was taken down in the box and StFX was awarded a penalty kick. Dan Hayfield (Exeter, ENG) stepped up to the dot, as he has done several times this season, to take the kick, but Reds keeper Evan Barker (Winnipeg, MB) guessed right and made the huge save to preserve the UNB victory.

Hayfield had connected earlier in the game on the X-Men's first goal which came only seven minutes into the contest. He fed a nice corner kick ball in front of the Reds crease and fellow AUS all-star Josh Read (Bath, ENG) had a solid header that found its way into the back of the Reds net.

The X-Men held onto that single goal lead for much of the game as the team battled not only the wet, rainy weather but each other as some chippy play and several yellow cards ensued. The Reds were dangerous all game on corner kicks and the X-Men weren't without their own chances as Barker came up with some key saves to keep his team in the game, earning him Subway player of the game honours.

Defender Josh Read was the Subway player of the game for the X-Men in the tough loss that ended their AUS season.

The Reds will now move on to face the top seeded and defending champion Cape Breton Capers in a rematch of last year's final at 4:00 pm Sunday in the championship game.