X-Men defeat UNB 4-3 to hand No. 1 ranked V-Reds first regular season loss
StFX ends UNB's run at perfection with four unanswered
The StFX X-Men knocked off the defending University Cup champions and CIS No. 1 ranked UNB Varsity Reds 4-3 Friday night in Fredericton, disappointing the 2,739 fans in attendance at the Aitken Centre and spoiling the V-Reds quest for a perfect 28-0-0 regular season record.
UNB falls to 26-1-0 on the season while StFX improves to 11-12-4.
"I am very proud of the team effort our guys put together tonight," said StFX head coach Brad Peddle after the game. "It was an emotional game, after being down 3-0 to a very good team and finding a way to comeback and find a way to win was pretty special. Our guys did an outstanding job of sticking to a game plan and making the most of our opportunities. It was a very hard fought road win and something our hockey club certainly needed as we prepare for playoffs."
Five CIS teams had previously completed perfect regular season unbeaten streaks, but UNB will no longer have the opportunity to become the sixth team in CIS history to accomplish the feat as the StFX overcame a 3-0 deficit to score four unanswered goals and hang on for a 4-3 victory.
Despite being outshot by a 39-21 margin, including a lopsided 12-2 in the opening period, StFX rookie netminder Bryan Gillis (Lantz, NS) earned Player of the Game honours. Second year forward Brett Morrison (Howie Center, NS) assisted on the tying goal and scored the game winning goal at 12:03 of the third period, while Kevin Undershute (Medicine Hat, AB) and Phil Mangan (Gananogue, ON) each had two points in the win.
The Varsity Reds opened the game with three consecutive goals to establish an early lead and seemed in control with a 3-0 lead just 1:07 into the second period.
First period goals came off the sticks of CIS scoring leader Hunter Tremblay (Timmins, ON) at 10:04 and freshman Chris Culligan (Howie Center, NS) at 12:51 on the power play. Sophomore Jonathan Harty (Oromocto, NB) added a second period marker 1:07 into the middle frame to give the defending national champions a three goal cushion.
At the 7:16 mark of the second, the X-Men finally got on the scoreboard thanks to a power-play marker by rookie forward Murdock MacLellan (Mabou, NS) at the 7:16 mark.
The X-Men would find the back of the net two more times before the second intermission with Undershute's sixth of the year at 11:21 and Bryce Swan's team-leading 20th of the season at 15:10.
Morrison's lone third period goal, his 11th of the campaign, from Phil Mangan was the difference in the game and held up as the game-winner, despite a late power-play opportunity for the Varsity Reds and pressure with goalie Travis Fullerton (Riverview, NB) on the bench in favour of an extra attacker.
The X-Men finished the game 1-of-5 on the power-play, while the Varsity Reds were 1-for-8 with the man advantage.
StFX's Bryan Gillis stopped 36-of-39 shots he faced and improves to 8-10-0 with the win while UNB's Travis Fullerton made 17 saves and picks up his first loss of the season. Fullerton now has a 18-1-0 record.
The win should provide a lift for the X-Men, who were on a three-game losing skid coming into the game and had dropped six of their last seven. StFX has been hit with the injury bug as of late with captain Chris Hulit and platoon goaltender Joey Perricone, along with forward Matthew Bragg all out of the StFX line-up.
Despite the disappointing loss, Varsity Reds, who have been the top ranked team in the country all season and were aiming for a perfect 28-0 finish can still establish a new record for regular season wins with a home victory over the Dalhousie Tigers Saturday night. The Tigers lost to the UPEI Panthers 7-2 Friday night in Charlottetown, but still hold down the sixth and final playoff spot with one game remaining.
UNB, who won their second CIS title in the past three years last year, have been tested several times by AUS teams throughout the season, including two close previous encounters with StFX. On November 6th, the Varsity Reds defeated the X-Men 4-3 in overtime in Antigonish, while last weekend at StFX they also overcame a 2-0 deficit for a 5-3 win, scoring an empty net goal in the final minute of play.
The five previous CIS teams to post a perfect record included the 1965-66 StFX X-Men (14-0), along with the 1970-71 Laurentain Voyageurs (10-0), the 1972-73 Toronto Varsity Blues (17-0) and Saint Mary's Huskies (21-0) and most recently the 2002-03 Western Ontario Mustangs.
The 2007-08 UNB squad posted the most successful AUS season to date with a 26-1-1 record and 53 points. Should the current Varsity Reds (26-1-0) go on to defeat the visiting Dalhousie Tigers tomorrow evening in the final regular season game, they will better that mark.
The fifth place X-Men (11-12-4) will now travel to Charlottetown Saturday to complete the regular season where they'll face fourth place UPEI Panthers (14-11-2) in a playoff preview of the opening quarterfinal series set to begin Wednesday. The game is a 7:00pm start and will be webcast live at www.pathertv.ca.
Notes: The X-Men have now handed the V-Reds their last two losses in regular season play, both coming at the Aitken Centre. StFX was the last team to pull off the feat last season (February 7th, 2009) when they won by a score of 3-2...With his game-tying goal in the second period, StFX sniper Bryce Swan became the first X-Men in 10 years to reach the 20 goal plateau in a season. Former AUS Player of the Year Yanick Evola last accomplished the feat for the X-Men when he netted 22 back in 1999-00...UNB's Tremblay picked up three points in the game and now has a CIS leading 54 points on the season, 14 more than teammate John Scott Dickson, who sits second in AUS scoring with 40 points. Dickson also collected two assists in the loss...StFX (11-12-4) is now assured of a fifth place finish and will play the UPEI Panthers (14-11-2) in a best 2-of-3 quarter-final series beginning Wednesday, February 17th at the MacLauchlan Arena in Charlottetown at 7pm. Game 2 will be played Friday evening (Feb. 19) in Antigonish at the Keating Millenium Centre, also at 7pm. Game three, if necessary, will be played back in Charlottetown. (Game 3 game time is TBA)