(ANTIGONISH, N.S.) - With a 4-2 home ice win Monday night, the StFX X-Men have forced a fifth-and-deciding game in their Subway AUS semi-final series with the UNB Varsity Reds.
More than 1,100 fans at the StFX Keating Centre saw the home side jump to a 1-0 lead when forward Steven Kuhn (Oyen, AB) deposited a rebound behind V-Reds netminder David Shantz (Hamilton, ON) at the 2:30 mark of the first period. Zack MacQueen (Woodstock, ON) notched the lone assist on the tally.
X-Men junior goaltender Drew Owsley (Lethbridge, AB) made several key saves, including during consecutive Varsity Red power plays, to preserve the one-goal advantage after 20 minutes.
"It was a big win for us. We got off to a good start and it was a great team effort," Owsley, the Subway Player of the Game, commented. He added that the X-Men "showed a lot of character" in scoring back-to-back home wins to even the series after what he described as a "heartbreaking" 2-1 loss in Game 2 in Fredericton.
The Varsity Reds made it 1-1 early in the second period when Chris Caissy (Campbellton, NB) beat Owsley with a wrist shot. Jordan Murray (Moncton, NB) and Colin Suellentrop (Plantation, FA) assisted at the 3:21 mark.
Two minutes later, at 5:21, the X-Men regained the lead with Kuhn scoring his second goal of the game. He grabbed the rebound from a Ted Stephens (Whitehorse, YT) shot and slid it home. Bronson Maschmeyer (Bruderheim, AB) had the other assist.
At 16:59, Dana Fraser (Tatamagouche, NS) knotted the affair for the Varsity Reds with a hard, low shot from the slot. Taylor MacDougall (Fredericton, NB) and Philippe Maillet (Lachenaie, QC) collected the assists.
With 1:30 remaining in the second period, the X-Men made it 3-2 on a marker by Jarrad Struthers (Glace Bay, NS), with assists from Kristoff Kontos (Penetanguishene, ON) and Michael Kirkpatrick (North Sydney, NS). The goal came on a counter-attack by StFX after defenseman Craig Duininck (St. Cloud, MN) made a diving play to thwart a breakaway opportunity for Varsity Reds forward Tyler Carroll (Strathroy, ON).
At 7:44 of the third period, Kirkpatrick provided an insurance marker when he roofed a blast glove-side over Shantz. Kontos assisted on the even-strength goal.
Owsley and a disciplined and effective X-Men penalty kill stymied any UNB comeback attempt. The Varsity Reds outshot the X-Men 18 to three in the final 20 minutes of play.
Owsley made 39 saves for the win, while Shantz turned aside 10 shots in the loss.
The three stars of the game were Owsley, Kuhn and Maillet.
Noting the X-Men were dealing with illness, injury and suspension, Owsley credited his squad for its total team effort.
"Depth has been one of our biggest assets all season and we showed it tonight," he said.
The X-Men were without two key forwards - Eric Locke (Toronto, ON) due to illness, and Blake Gal (Lethbridge, AB) who received a suspension stemming from a hit in Game 3. UNB were without the services of forward Rob Mignardi who was also serving a suspension from a Game 3 incident. X-Men third year forward Cole Grbavac is out for the duration of the AUS playoffs with an injury.
The deciding Game 5 of the Subway AUS semi-final series is slated for Thursday, Feb. 26 at the Aitken Centre in Fredericton. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.
With flles from StFX Sports Information.
Photo courtesty of Gordon La.