Adam Stevens scored with 47 seconds left in overtime to send the StFX X-Men to the final of the 2018 Cavendish Farms University Cup with a 5-4 win over the two-time and defending national champions, the UNB Varsity Reds.
“We play these guys enough to know that every game is a battle,” said X-Men head coach Brad Peddle.
Stevens and forward Holden Cook both had two points in the win. StFX took an early penalty, just 1:32 into the game. On the ensuing UNB power play, Chris Caissy corralled a rebound off a point shot through traffic to score the Varsity Reds first goal, just seconds into the man advantage.
The X-Men responded off a neutral zone turnover 1:48 later. Anthony Difruscia buried the rebound off a shot by Reagan Spears to tie the game 1-1. StFX took the upper hand less than two minutes later, when Santino Centorame cleaned up a rebound off a shot from Michael Clarke at the right side of the UNB goal. Tyler Boland then roofed UNB’s second power play goal of the game from a seemingly impossible angle to tie the game with less than five minutes left in the first period.
Both teams traded multiple chances in the second. Goaltenders Alex Dubeau and Chase Marchand both stood tall when called upon for their respective teams. UNB outshot the X-Men 18-7 in the period and finally capitalized with yet another powerplay goal with just 39 seconds left in the second. Christopher Clapperton put one out of the reach of Marchand to give the Varsity Reds the lead heading into the third.
A 5-on-3 power play, which included a five-minute major, proved costly for the Varsity Reds in the first half of the third. Cook scored and Cole MacDonald followed 58 seconds later to put the X-Men up with 13 minutes left to go in regulation.
With just over five minutes left to play, Mark Simpson potted a rebound off a shot from the slot to even things at four. With 1:54 to play, StFX was awarded a penalty shot after Bryson Cianfrone was hauled down on a scoring chance. Cianfrone approached with a deke, but was stopped by the left pad of Dubeau, a save that would eventually send the game to overtime.
“I’ve been at this 18 years and I’ve never had a penalty shot against us in the third period of a national final,” said Varsity Reds head coach Gardiner MacDougall.
Shots were 40-25 for the Varsity Reds after regulation. In the 10-minute overtime, UNB grabbed the momentum early on, but in the dying minutes it swung in favour of StFX. With 47 seconds left in the first overtime, and Dubeau and UNB’s defence scrambling, Stevens buried a pass from Mark Tremaine to win the game for the X-Men.
“We prepared for that third period all year,” said MacDougall. “Sometimes you can do all the preparation you want, sometimes it just doesn’t go to the script that you would like.”
Shots on goal were 46-29 in favour of the Varsity Reds. Marchand made 42 saves in the win for the X-Men, while Dubeau had 24 saves in a losing effort for the Varsity Reds.
“As a goalie you are trying to stay as calm as you can…it was easy to stay calm with our guys playing as calm as they did,” said Marchand when asked how he kept his poise during the game.
Both teams were evenly matched on the man advantage, with the Varsity Reds going 3-6 while the X-Men went 3-7.
The X-Men now move on to face the winner of the second semi-final between the Alberta Golden Bears and the Saskatchewan Huskies.
The Varsity Reds reign as national champions comes to an end. They will play the loser of the second semi-final for the bronze medal. Game time is Sunday, 9:00 a.m. ET / 6:00 a.m. PT.
Players of the Game:
UNB: Chris Clapperton
St FX: Adam Stevens