ANTIGONISH, N.S. - With remnants of the fall-out from a line-brawl between the two teams during a Feb. 2 game in Wolfville still evident, the St. F.X. X-Men eliminated the Acadia Axemen from the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) playoffs with a 4-1 victory Sunday (Feb. 17) evening, at a sold-out Keating Centre.
As both head coaches – Brad Peddle of the X-Men and Darren Burns of the Axemen – watched from respective spectator/press boxes, St. F.X. forward Adam Stevens scored the only goal of the first period, on a power-play (PP), with assists going to fellow veterans Matt Needham and captain Mark Tremaine.
Tremaine was a welcome addition back to the X-Men line-up after serving a suspension as part of the Feb. 2 aftermath.
Acadia used an early second period PP to even the score, but X-Men forwards Sam Studnicka and Matthew Graham ripped pucks past Axemen goaltender Logan Flodell a couple of minutes apart, around the mid-way part of the period, to put St. F.X. on top with a little bit of insurance.
Santino Centorame assisted on Studnicka’s goal while a couple of Adams – Holwell and Laishram – picked up helpers on Graham’s.
The blue and while dagger, to make it 4-1 with 5:57 to go in the game, came off the stick of veteran defenceman Cole Macdonald, following a nice solo rush and perfectly placed shot.
The cushion was more than enough for St. F.X. goaltender Chase Marchand who was brilliant all game and saved, arguably, his two best saves with under 30, and then under 10, seconds to go – denying the Axemen even the token victory of a second goal, with not enough time to tie the score.
“It was a great effort by our guys,” Marchand, the reigning AUS MVP and U Sport goalie of the year, said.
“We stuck with it from the first minute of the game until the end; that’s what happens when you give it your all and never quit.”
Studnicka, named Subway player of the game, talked about his teammate between the pipes.
“He won AUS MVP last year for a reason; he is a hell of a goalie, he keeps us in a lot of games,” Studnicka said. “There is no quit in his game ever, which was pretty evident there in the last 10 seconds.”
Both players talked about bouncing back from a tough loss in game two of the best-of-three series; a 3-2 overtime win by Acadia in Wolfville Friday night.
“In the playoffs, you need a short memory,” Studnicka said. “Obviously, it’s a quick turnaround … two days later it’s game three and a one-game elimination; so we all had to dig into our systems and play our best here.”
Marchand answered by quoting his coach.
“He says ‘shelf it,’ that’s a good motto. It’s over with, done with, we have another game today, we had to reset and that’s what we did.”
Studnicka talked about the X-Men’s experience helping them control the emotions of the elimination game and series.
“It’s a hockey game; we’ve all been through it before,” he said.
“This group has been to a lot of national championships, so we know how to handle the playoff atmosphere. We came out and, I thought, we handled ourselves well. We stayed even keeled all game and came out on top.”
The X-Men will now face the St. Mary’s Huskies who finished second in regular season play.
“We need to do the same thing we did tonight; never quit, play for the full 60 minutes,” Marchand said. “That’s the type of team we have; we’re relentless and that’s who we have to be.”
The best-of-five series begins in Halifax with games Thursday (Feb. 21) and Saturday at the Halifax Forum.
The series shifts to Antigonish for games three and, if necessary, four; Monday (Feb. 25) and Wednesday (Feb. 27) at the Keating Centre.
If a game five is necessary, it will be played Friday, March 1, at the Forum.
All games are a 7 p.m. puck-drop and can be viewed live, via webcast, at AUStv.ca.