Wednesday, March 3, 2010

StFX sweeps UNB with another 3-2 win

ANTIGONISH – It certainly wasn't an outcome predicted by anyone to start the series, but the StFX X-Men once again defeated the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds 3-2 Tuesday night to sweep their playoff semi-finals in three straight games. UNB of course was 27-1 in the regular season, with their only loss of th season on the last weekend to ... StFX. Coincidentally the X-Men have won each of their five playoff games so far this postseason by a score of 3-2.

It was a standing room only crowd of 1600 at the Keating Millennium Centre arena on the StFX campus who were daring to hope that StFX could sweep the defending CIS champions. UNB came out flying to start the game, but Bryan Gillis (Lantz, NS) was steady as always in the X-Men net and his teammates stuck to their winning plan of blocking shots, chipping pucks out of trouble, and clogging up the neutral zone and passing lanes. However, as has happened all series, it was the opportunistic X-Men getting on the scoreboard first at 8:17 when UNB goalie Travis Fullerton (Riverview, NB) fumbled an initial shot and gave up a juicy puck to a hard charging Rob Warner (Whitehorse, YK) to put into a gaping net. In the last minute of the period UNB had their best scoring chance when the were swarming the crease but just couldn't get a stick on a loose puck. UNB outshot StFX 11-3 in the first period.

The teams traded penalties in the early second period before UNB had back to back power plays. When UNB started their third power play at 7:47 head coach Gardiner MacDougall opted to swap his goaltenders for some reason, putting Derek Yeomans (St. Albert, AB) in nets. Soon after after Yeomans had to make a breakaway save on X's Brett Robertson (Srathmore, AB) to get himself into the game. UNB came back at StFX with Lachlan MacIntosh (Perth-Andover, NB) trying to score on the rush, Gillis making the save and the rebound coming out to the neutral zone to be gobbled up by the X-Men who had a two-on-one shorthanded rush the other way with Mathew Bragg (Newmans Cove, NL) beating Yeomans at 9:09. With that, MacDougall put Fullerton back in the UNB net. Worse for UNB, in the last minute of the period captain Kyle Bailey (Ponoka, AB) was chasing down a puck deep in the StFX zone when hulking defenceman Mark Louis (also Ponoka, AB) hammered Bailey into the end boards. There was no penalty on the call, and when he got up Bailey rushed to UNB dressing room cradling his hand.

Kyle Bailey was on the UNB bench to start the third period, but he did not return to the ice in the game. UNB had an early power play, with some scoring chances, but yet again they were continuously foiled by Gillis until late in the power play Luke Lynes (Rochester Hills, MI) made a great pass to Chris Culligan (Howie Center, NS) in the slot who backhanded the puck through traffic and past Gillis to finally get UNB on the scoresheet at 3:03. The Varsity Reds continued their relentless pressure and thought they tied up the game at 12:26 when Lynes had two whacks at the puck in close, but couldn't get the puck over Gillis' pads. Lachlan MacIntosh then lifted the puck into the net for an apparent goal, only to see the referee wave the goal off because the net had moved a bit off its pegs at the same time. The Varsity Reds on the ice and on the bench were livid as they felt it was a StFX player who had deliberately bumped the net during the UNB attack, but their protests didn't change the call. Exactly two minutes later MacIntosh put another puck past Gillis into the net to tie the game, and this time it wasn't called back. StFX managed to get a power play shortly after and Phil Mangan (Gananogue, ON) beat Fullerton through the five hole at 15:10 to take back the lead. UNB in turn had a power play less than a minute later but could do little to generate scoring chances. MacDougall even used his timeout with 26 seconds left in that power play to rest his troops and try to sketch a plan, but it didn't work as StFX was content the rest of the game to block shots, and chip the puck out, or ice it, every time they were under pressure. UNB pulled their goalie with just over a minute to go and had key last gasp faceoffs with eight seconds to go, and again one second to go, but couldn't get the puck on net.

Final shots were 33-23 for UNB. The Varsity Reds outshot StFX every game in the series, 95-54 in total, but still lost each game 3-2. UNB, the top power play in the AUS in the regular season, was only 1-for-8 with the man advantage in this game, and 1-for-18 in the series. StFX was 1-for-5 in the game and 2-for-12 in the series. StFX will now wait to play the winner of the Acadia-Saint Mary's series, where SMU has a 2-1 series lead.

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