(ANTIGONISH, N.S.) - The StFX X-Men skated to a hard-fought 3-1 win over the UNB Varsity Reds in Subway AUS semi-final action Sunday night.
With the win, the X-Men stave off elimination and cut the Varsity Reds' lead to 2-1 in the best-of-five series.
"We knew we needed to play a full 60 minutes against a really great team," X-Men captain Rob Slaney said after the game.
More than 700 fans at the Keating Centre saw the visiting Varsity Reds open the scoring in a back-and-forth opening period when Philippe Halley (Quebec City, QC) found a bouncing puck at the side of the net and pushed it behind Drew Owsley (Lethbridge, AB) in the X-Men goal. Tyler Carroll (Strathroy, ON) and Matt Petgrave (Brampton, ON) garnered the assists at the 17:19 mark.
Less than two minutes later, at 19:09, Ted Stephens (Whitehorse, YT) notched the equalizer when he took a centering pass from line-mate Eric Locke (Toronto, ON), who streaked down his off-wing before making the feed. David Shantz (Hamilton, ON) made the initial save, but Stephens was able to poke in his own rebound from close quarters. Rob Slaney (Portugal Cove NL) tallied the other assist for the X-Men.
Early in the second period, team leading scorer Michael Kirkpatrick (North Sydney, NS) gave the X-Men a 2-1 advantage in what would hold up as the eventual game-winning goal. His unassisted marker came at the 1:17 mark.
The X-Men killed two penalties, including a four-minute high-sticking call to Stephens, to preserve the one-goal lead after 40 minutes,
"We are playing well and limiting their chances," Kirkpatrick said after the second period.
In the third period, the X-Men protected their one-goal lead, with Owsley making several key saves to seal the win.
Locke sealed the victory with an empty net goal for the X-Men with 47 seconds left to play. Gabe O'Connor (Beloeil, QC) picked up a helper on the play.
Owsley made 19 saves for the victory, while Shantz turned aside 16 shots in the loss.
"He has been everything for us. He always gives us a chance to win," Kirkpatrick said of Owsley.
The Subway Player of the Game was Kirkpatrick, while the three stars were Kirkpatrick, Owsley and Carroll. Shots favored the Varsity Reds at 20-18.
Game 4 of the 2015 Subway AUS best-of-five semi-final series will take place Monday, Feb. 23.
"You should expect the exact same thing - a hard fought one," Slaney said, when asked about Game 4. "It is going to be all about a bounce here or there. We are looking forward to it."
Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. at the StFX Keating Centre. Game 5, if necessary, will be played in Fredericton on Thursday night.
With files from StFX Sports Information.
Photo courtesy of Gordan La.