(ANTIGONISH, NS) The StFX X-Men are Subway Atlantic University Sport men's hockey champions for a second straight season.
The X-Men captured the 2017 title with a 5-4 win over the UNB Varsity Reds Wednesday night, sweeping the best of three championship series. StFX won the first game of the series 2-1, on Monday, in Fredericton.
"It was a gritty effort, being down two goals and coming back to score three to take the lead," X-Men captain Eric Locke(Toronto, ON) said during the on-ice celebration.
"They have a great team, but we just wanted it. We won it last year. We know what it feels like, it is so great, and we wanted that feeling again this season."
Veteran X-Men head coach Brad Peddle described the accomplishment as "huge."
"There are so many emotions right now… it is hard to put into words," he said. "Back to back championships at home, it's tough to beat it."
When asked about the difference in the series, Peddle replied "the will to find a way. Down 3-1, battled back and battled back," he noted of the effort in the clincher.
Peddle's X-Men were undefeated (7-0) in AUS playoff action this season.
Goaltender Chase Marchand(Halifax, NS), who was between the pipes for all seven victories, earned AUS playoff MVP honors.
The Varsity Reds held a 3-1 lead early in the second period of game two before the X-Men surged back with four unanswered goals to take a 5-3 advantage late in the game.
UNB opened the scoring at 16:04 of the first period. Philippe Maillet(Terrebonne, QC) scorched a wrist shot over the shoulder of Marchand.
Just 25 seconds later, defenseman Max Iafrate(Livonia, MI) tied the game.
The Varsity Reds came out flying in the second period, scoring two quick goals within the opening minute and a half.
Philippe Halley(Quebec City, QC) beat Marchand to make it 2-1.
Just 19 seconds later, Maillet scored his second of the game to give UNB a 3-1 edge.
At 3:03, X-Men forward Holden Cook(Oshawa, ON) scored to trim the UNB lead to 3-2.
Six minutes later, Sam Studnicka(Windsor, ON) beat Etienne Marcoux(Terrebonne, QC) with a hard shot to tie the score 3-3.
Then, with X playing with a 5-on-3 advantage, Adam Stevens(Bedford, NS) gave the X-Men their first lead of the game, 4-3.
With 7:01 remaining in regulation, Michael Clarke(London, ON) made it 5-3 for StFX.
The Varsity Reds closed the gap at 17:32, on a delayed penalty call, as Chris Clapperton(Cap Espoir, QC) went top shelf.
UNB could get no closer.
Marchand made 31 saves for the win, while Marcoux turned aside 23 shots in the loss.
Maillet, with two goals, earned Subway Player of the Game honours for the Varsity Reds, while Craig Duininck(St. Cloud, MN) received the nod for the X-Men.
"I think, when you look at the two games, obviously, we had territorial play [in Game 1] and we couldn't find a way to get the lead and tonight we couldn't hold the lead," UNB head coach Gardner MacDougall said.
"To be positive, we know what we have to work on for next week."
Both teams will compete in the 2017 Cavendish Farms University Cup, which will take place from March 16-19 at the Aitken Centre, in Fredericton.
"We are going to celebrate this win, for sure, and then get back to work for, hopefully, three games in three days next weekend," Locke said.
RECAP BY: StFX Athletics
PHOTO BY: Lauren Tidd/for StFX Athletics