(ANTIGONISH, NS) The U SPORTS No. 1 ranked UNB Varsity Reds padded their lead atop the Atlantic University Sport standings with a 5-3 win over the St. FX X-Men Friday.
In a back and forth game, the VReds scored the final two goals of the night in the third period to hold on for the win, outshooting the X-Men 35-24.
With three regular season games remaining, the X-Men sit in third place, six points behind the Acadia Axemen. The Varsity Reds have clinched first place and a first-round playoff bye.
Varsity Reds forward Chris Caissy(Campbellton, NB) skated in on the opening rush of the game, splitting two X defenders and beating netminder Chase Marchand(Halifax, NS) high on the blocker side. The goal came only 14 seconds into the game.
The X-Men responded quickly as Michael Clarke(London, ON) scored on the power-play at 2:37.
Just over a minute later, Eric Locke(Toronto, ON) gave the X-Men their first lead of the game.
The Varsity Reds got the equalizer, on the power-play, as AUS and U SPORTS scoring leader Philippe Maillet(Terrebonne, QC) capitalized on a rebound off a Cam Braes(Shawnigan Lake, SK) shot on goal at 13:36.
The 2-2 tie held going into the first intermission.
The UNB forecheck produced a goal late in the second period.
The X-Men couldn't clear the puck and Mark Simpson(Fredericton, NB) batted it in past Marchand to give the Varsity Reds a 3-2 lead heading into the second intermission.
Three minutes into the third period, Matt Needham(Penticton, BC) scored on an X-Men power-play to knot the game 3-3.
The Varsity Reds re-gained their one-goal edge at 5:32 on a Dylan Willick goal.
Marchand and Alex Dubeau(Mascouche, QC) came up with big stops for their respective squads in the third period.
UNB netted an insurance marker with 2:33 left to play as Chris Clapperton(Cap Espoir, QC) caught Marchand off guard, scoring an unassisted marker.
The X-Men pulled Marchand in favor of the extra attacker with just over two minutes to play.
Dubeau had a big glove save on a Michael Clarke shot. The Varsity Reds then took a penalty, giving the X-Men a two-man, 6-on-4 advantage for over a minute. Dubeau, with 21 saves on the night, stood tall in the Varsity Reds net as St. FX pressured but couldn't score.
Marchand turned aside 30 pucks in the losing effort for the X-Men.
Rob Mignardi(Richmond Hill, ON) took home first star and Subway Player of the Game honours, while X's Clarke earned second star and UNB's Willick was the third star.
UNB travels to Halifax for a Saturday match against the Dalhousie Tigers.
The X-Men will host the UPEI Panthers. Puck drop at 7:00pm for both games.
RECAP BY: St. FX Athletics
PHOTO BY: Caitlyn McLeod, for St. FX Athletics