(ANTIGONISH, N.S.) In a battle of U SPORTS ranked teams, the No. 3 StFX X-Men fell 4-2 to the No. 7 Acadia Axemen Thursday evening in front of over 800 hometown fans as the Axemen earned a key victory on the road in Game 1 of the Subway AUS semifinal best-of-five series at the Charles V. Keating Centre.
All indications are that the two teams are in for a close, hard-fought semifinal series. The puck hadn't even dropped on Game 1 as players from both teams exchanged words and minor scuffles at the start of warm-up.
Freshman X-Men defenseman Santino Centorame (Mississauga, Ont.) opened the scoring in the game with a power play marker at 2:47 off a shot from the point that looked to have deflected past netminder Robert Steeves (St. Joseph-de-Kent, N.B.) off one of his own defenseman. Michael Clarke (London, Ont.) and Kristoff Kontos (Pentanguishene, Ont.) had the helpers on the play for the X-Men.
The Axemen nearly tied it up minutes later as Kyle Farrell (Howie Corner, N.S.) streaked in alone on the X net but was stopped by AUS most valuable player Chase Marchand (Halifax, N.S.).
The visitors did tie it up at the 7:49 mark when Samuel Fiorertti (Calgary, Alta.) shoveled in a rebound past Marchand after the initial save was made on a Liam Masskant (Clinton, Ont.) shot. AUS second team all-star Boston Leier (Saskatoon, Sask.) also assisted on the play.
The score remained tied at 1-1 at the conclusion of the first period, despite an X-Men power play late in the frame that generated several shots on net, but Steeves held his ground in the Axemen net.
Shots favored the X-Men 12-10 in the opening period.
The second period continued the fast and furious physical play. Masskant had a great scoring chance for the Axemen when he rang one off the goal post midway through the period. The visitors continued to pressure as Marchand made several key saves to keep his team in the game.
An Acadia bench minor for too many men on the ice proved costly as recently named AUS first team all-star Michael Clarke made them pay with a power play goal. He redirected a Jagger Dirk shot from the point past Steeves. Kontos picked up his second assist of the night on the goal that came at 10:42.
The Axemen fought their way back into the game however, with two late period goals scored just over a minute apart.
At the 17:32 mark, Cristiano Digiacinto (Hamilton, Ont.) wristed a shot from the side of the StFX net and Farrell redirected it in past Marchand. Matthew Pufahl (Saskatoon, Sask.) also assisted on the game-tying marker.
With 1:20 left in the middle period, Rodney Southam (Saskatoon, Sask.) scored what would hold up as the game winning goal for the Axemen, netting their third marker of the evening. Digiacinto sent a low pass down to Southam who was skating towards the X net, and he was able to get his backhand on it and put it up high over the shoulder of Marchand. Maaskant picked up his second assist of the night on the play.
Holding the X-Men to only five shots in the second period to their 12, the Axemen took the 3-2 lead into the locker room following 40 minutes.
The third period remained scoreless as the Axemen fought to hold onto their one-goal lead and the X-Men fought to score the equalizer.
StFX was forced to play shorthanded to close out the period as Regan Spears (Port Hood, N.S.) was sent off for a five-minute major for head contact with 4:23 left to play.
The Axemen added a late goal while on the ensuing power play as Digiacinto found the veteran fifth year captain Geoff Schemitsch (Thornhill, Ont.) in front of the StFX net and he directed it past Marchand. Southam also assisted as the Axemen earned a key 4-2 win in the opening game of the series.
Final shots on the evening were 35-22 in favour of the Axemen as Steeves earned the win in nets along with Subway player of the game honours for his team.
X-Men goaltender Chase Marchand, with 31 saves, was the Subway player of the game for StFX.
As Acadia now holds an early 1-0 series lead, the teams will be right back in action on Friday night for Game 2 of the Subway AUS semifinal series. Game time is 7 p.m. at the StFX Keating Centre.
Source: StFX Sports Information