To say the StFX X-Men were surprised by their early exit from the University Cup would be an understatement.
The X-Men opened the scoring in their quarterfinal game against No. 1 seeded Alberta only to allow five unanswered goals in what proved to be a dominating performance by the Golden Bears.
At the media conference after the game, head coach Brad Peddle and veteran forwards Robert Slaney and Michael Kirkpatrick had to hold back tears when answering questions.
“It’s a really, really special group. I’ve been coaching for 10 years at this university and this is certainly one of my favourite teams. They’ve been an absolute pleasure to coach from day one. It was a high-character group that absolutely worked their tails off every game,” said Peddle.
“I’ll be honest, after the second period when it was 3-1, there wasn’t one person in our room who didn’t believe that we weren’t going to come back. People around here who follow our league regularly have seen it in this team before. We’ve battled back numerous times in different situations to make it a game and a lot of times win that game. Tonight just wasn’t a night that we could do it.”
There were times when the two teams were at such even strength that it looked as though Alberta was on a power play. Peddle said it was a very uncharacteristic defensive performance from his team.
“The second period is when I thought things turned,” Peddle said.
“We defended in our zone way to much in that second period and I think that is when the game changed.”
Quite a comeback
The talk of the tournament on Friday was UQTR’s stunning comeback victory over the Acadia Axemen in quarterfinal action.
The Axemen were up 4-1 after two periods of play and 5-2 before the seven-minute mark of the third. The Patriotes went on to score three goals in less than three minutes to send the game into overtime, setting up Vincent Marcoux for the game-winner at 8:40 of the extra frame.
“It didn’t start how we wanted,” said UQTR head coach Marc-Etienne Hubert about the game. “The guys battled through that game and we believed in each other. We showed a lot of character today by coming back that way. I’m really proud of our players and what they accomplished. After all the effort we put in this year… we’re proud of the big opening game win.”
UQTR forward Billy Lacasse said his team wanted to get off to a good start in the third period.
“It was kind of a shaky start but we stood together, worked hard and won our battles throughout the third period and we were actually able to tie them up before the end of the third,” he said.
Golden Bears impress
The Alberta Golden Bears quickly showed why they were seeded No. 1 coming into the tournament, winning their first two games by a combined score of 10-2.
“We faced one of the best teams I have ever seen in the CIS,” said UQTR head coach Marc-Etienne Hubert after his team’s 5-1 semifinal loss to the Bears. “I played for four years and, as a player, went to the finals three times and won twice. This is the best team I’ve ever seen. They’re fast, they’re skilled, they’ve got a good work ethic and they’ve got depth. It was a huge challenge for us and we learned a lot today with that game.”
“That’s a very fast, very skilled team. Once they got us running around I thought they upped the pressure even more,” said StFX head coach Brad Peddle, whose team fell 5-1 to Alberta in the quarterfinals.
Before Friday’s quarterfinal game between StFX and Alberta, there was a special ceremonial faceoff featuring former X-Men Dean and PJ Stock. Dean was recently diagnosed with ALS and PJ, currently an analyst with Hockey Night in Canada, told the story about his brother’s fight with the disease during a national NHL broadcast a little while ago.
When asked if his team drew inspiration from the ceremony, StFX head coach Brad Peddle was quite blunt.
“Did you see our start?” the coach said, referring to his team opening the scoring 7:54 into the game.
Proceeds from 50/50 ticket sales at the University Cup were given to the Stock family. A silent auction featuring sports memorabilia was also held on the arena concourse.
Guelph’s incredible run
At Christmas time, the Guelph Gryphons had three wins in 16 games. Fast-forward to the middle of March and the Gryphons were at the University Cup as the No. 3 seeded team.
Guelph turned things around in the new year and finished sixth in the OUA West Division with an 11-13-3 record. In the playoffs, the team lost their first games against Waterloo and Toronto only to come back and win both series. They then swept Windsor in the conference final and defeated UQTR 4-0 to win the Queen’s Cup.
At nationals, Guelph defeated Calgary 3-1 in the quarterfinals but fell 5-2 to UNB in the semifinals, meaning their storybook season would have to end in the bronze medal game.