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Spears shining on playoff stage

Port Hood native Regan Spears (with puck) and the St. F.X. X-Men will skate in the 2019 U SPORTS Cavendish Farms University Cup this weekend at the University of Lethbridge. Richard MacKenzie
Port Hood native Regan Spears (with puck) and the St. F.X. X-Men will skate in the 2019 U SPORTS Cavendish Farms University Cup this weekend at the University of Lethbridge. Richard MacKenzie - Corey LeBlanc

Port Hood native key contributor for hockey X-Men

Third time’s a charm.    

Regan Spears hopes that adage applies when it comes to capturing a U Sports championship banner.    

It will be the third trip – in three seasons – to the national tournament for the junior forward with the St. F.X. X-Men hockey team.    

“We have to stick to our game – playing simple and moving our feet, using our transition game and getting up the ice and working it down low,” the Port Hood native said, when asked about the keys to success for his team.    

The X-Men, Atlantic University Sport runners-up, are seeded sixth for the 2019 U SPORTS Cavendish Farms University Cup. They will open play in the eight-team, single elimination tournament Friday, March 15, at 10 p.m. ADT, versus the OUA champion Queen's Gaels.

“It is a very tight-knit team – probably the closest team I have ever played on,” Spears said.    

The Cape Breton West Islander product notched 11 points in the regular season for the third-place X-Men.    

“He has taken advantage of having some more opportunity, and finding some consistency in his game,” St. F.X. head coach Brad Peddle said of the 6’5”, 200-pound forward.    

He added, over three seasons with the Blue and White, ‘consistency’ has been one of the key focuses for the coaching staff when it comes to Spears.    

“Regan has tremendous abilities, in terms of his size, skating and skill; not to mention his compete level and grit,” Peddle said.    

“He has a lot of all those qualities, but what we have had to do is make sure he is consistent in bringing that total package every night, which is something that Regan has worked hard on.”    

The veteran bench boss noted “it has really come together for him” during the playoffs.    

“Confidence is everything, with young players, and he is confident – right now – out there,” Peddle added.    

In the first two rounds of the post-season – thrilling victories over the Acadia Axemen and Saint Mary’s Huskies – Spears led the X-Men with seven points.        

“My line-mates are playing well – we are getting chances and I have been able to capitalize,” he said, noting opportunities he has received on the power play.    

When it comes to his improvement at the university level, Spears said “I am just sticking with it – playing simple and putting pucks deep.”    

After a self-described slow start to the regular season, he added he is pleased with his better play during the second half, which has carried over into the playoffs.    

“I started to get my feet moving a little bit better and things started to go my way,” he added.    

Spears noted having the opportunity to practice with high-calibre players as a member of the X-Men has been crucial to his improvement.    

“I have learned so much – my teammates and coaches have really helped me out,’ he said.    

Spears added he has focused on “getting better and better each week.”    

When it comes to making the jump to the university level from the Maritime Hockey League (MHL), after three seasons with the Pictou County Crushers, he said the biggest adjustment has been to the speed, particularly in the transition game.    

“Being able to stop and start – a little bit more efficiently – and the passes are harder, the shots are harder at this level,” Spears explained.    

Peddle noted his student-athlete, who is working towards a Bachelor in Business Administration, knows – more and more – what he has to do to be effective.    

“For a big guy, he has to move his feet and have that nastiness to his game, where he is on the line and hard to play against and physical,” he said.    

“And, also, he has a little bit of a touch around the net, so he can be that prototypical power forward, as long as he continues to move his feet.”      

As for having the opportunity to play so close to home, only an hour or so from the Inverness County community where he grew up, Spears described it as “pretty awesome.”

“It is so much fun to play in front of them,” he said.    

“It is sweet to have that support from my family and friends, including here in Antigonish, and all the great fans of our team.”

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