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X-Men force game five

The StFX X-Men are very much still alive in the Atlantic University Sport men’s hockey playoffs.

The X-Men staved off elimination for a second straight night with a 4-2 victory over the UNB Varsity Reds last evening in Antigonish. StFX’s win ties the best-of-five semifinal series a 2-2 and sets up a deciding game five on Thursday night at the Aitken Centre.

The winner of the series advances to the AUS final where they’ll play the victor of the other semifinal between Saint Mary’s and Acadia. A UNB series win would clinch a spot in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championship for the Varsity Reds. The X-Men, as hosts of nationals this year, have already booked a spot in the eight-team tournament.

If the Varsity Reds lose this series, they’ll play the loser of the other semifinal to determine which team gets the third AUS spot at nationals.

Steven Kuhn scored twice for StFX last night while Jarrad Struthers and Michael Kirkpatrick added singles. Drew Owsley was outstanding in net, making 39 saves — 18 of which came in the third period.

Chris Caissy and Dana Fraser scored for UNB while David Shantz made 10 saves in the loss. The Varsity Reds looked better offensively than they did a night earlier but still struggled to click at times, especially early on in the game.

Just 2:30 into the match, Kuhn put a rebound past Shantz to give StFX a 1-0 lead on their first shot of the game. The X-Men applied quite a bit of pressure following the goal but were unable to add to their lead.

UNB went to the power play at 13:59 and again at 16:15. On the second man advantage, the Varsity Reds had the puck in the offensive zone for most of the two-minute period but could not beat Owsley. Cam Braes had the best chance of the power play, redirecting a shot from the slot that was stopped by the X-Men goaltender.

Late in the period, Philippe Halley had an open net but was tied up nicely by Trey Lewis. Thanks to the momentum gained from the back-to-back power plays, UNB was able to outshoot StFX 10-6 in the period.

3:21 into the second period, Caissy scored his first AUS goal to tie the game at 1-1. Two minutes later, Kuhn netted his second of the match to put StFX quickly back in front.

The X-Men had a couple great chances to extend their lead midway through the period. Kirkpatrick fed an open Struthers but his shot was denied by a diving Shantz. Later on, a centering pass by an X-Man hit a UNB defender and went off the post.

At 16:59, Fraser beat Owsley with a quick shot from the slot to tie it at 2-2. But once again, the X-Men quickly responded. With 1:30 left in the period, Struthers scored off a nice rush to give StFX a 3-2 lead heading into the third.

7:44 into the third, Kirkpatrick riffled the puck top corner and past Shantz to give StFX some insurance.

UNB had two power plays late in the third and created a plethora of chances but could not beat Owsley. The V-Reds pulled Shantz late and added an extra attacker but could not connect, falling 4-2.

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