Michael Clarke notched a hat-trick to help lead the St. F.X. X-Men to a 6-1 home win over the UPEI Panthers, Nov. 18, in Atlantic University Sport (AUS) hockey action.
That three-goal performance came one night after the junior forward scored the game-winner in a 3-2 overtime victory over the rival UNB Varsity Reds at the Keating Centre.
“We knew there would be a lot of space,” Clarke said of the goal against UNB, noting the X-Men started the extra session on a 4-on-3 power play.
He added the players showed “great composure” on the opening shift, which led to the game-winner.
“It was a great pass and I was able to tap it in,” Clarke said.
Holden Cook and Kristoff Kontos assisted on the goal.
After falling behind 1-0 in the first period, Anthony Difruscia notched the equalizer, on assists from Matt Needham and Port Hood native Regan Spears.
At 18:22, on the power play, Cook gave the Blue and White their first advantage, on assists from Kontos and Clarke.
After a scoreless second, the Varsity Reds forced OT on the strength of a late third-period marker from Marcus McIvor.
Sophomore goaltender Chase Marchand made 46 saves for the win.
In the victory over the Panthers, Marchand contributed 28 stops, while Needham chipped in three points – one goal and two assists.
“We were just trying to keep things simple,” Needham said of the X-Men’s winning effort.
Noting the team’s thinned ranks, he added, “We are stepping up as a group.”
Needham said several players have taken on expanded roles.
“Everyone has been giving a phenomenal effort,” he added.
Like Needham, in commenting on the back-to-back victories, Clarke praised the effort of the shorthanded X-Men.
“We were missing a lot of guys,” he said, noting they had “heavy legs” early in the match-up with the Panthers.
Clarke added “we have been showing strength in numbers.”
In the win over UPEI, the X-Men scored two goals in each period.
Kontos, from Adam Stevens and Santino Centorame, and Clarke, from Cook and Mark Tremaine, gave the home team a 2-0 edge after the first.
After the Panthers sliced the lead in half, early in the second period, Needham – from Difruscia and Cook – and Clarke, on the power play, gave St. F.X. a 4-1 margin after 40 minutes.
Cook and defenseman Jagger Dirk were the set-up men on the Clarke marker.
In the third period, the X-Men special teams continued to flex its muscles, with captain Craig Duininck scoring with the man advantage, from Needham and Nathan Pancel.
With less than two minutes remaining in regulation time, Clarke finished the scoring, on helpers from Needham and Cole MacDonald.
When asked about the season, so far, Clarke talked about the X-Men’s quick start, along with their resilience after dropping three straight games.
“We are excited about what we have with this team and we just have to keep things going,” he said.
Back in action
The X-Men wrapped up their pre-
Christmas home ice scheduled, Nov. 24, against the Acadia Axemen.
The Blue and White also hit the road for a match-up with the Dalhousie Tigers, Nov. 29, in Halifax.
Results of both games were unavailable at press time.