By Thomas Becker
Photo Janessa Hogan
Led by strong goaltending, the defending AUS champion St. F.X. X-Men narrowly escaped Charlottetown with a 2-1 win over the Panthers Friday night.
Chase Marchand, who made 30 saves on 31 attempts, shut the door on UPEI after teammate Bryson Cianfrone scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period.
"I felt good and I was seeing the puck well tonight," said Marchand. "But my team helped me out a lot, pushing guys to the outside for shots."
After getting trounced by UPEI 7-3 a week earlier, the X-Men put on a defensive clinic, limiting the Panthers to a single goal.
"We had a chip on our shoulders from the last game and we didn't want to come here and have them do the same thing," the goaltender said.
While the result wasn't there, Panthers head coach Forbes MacPherson still liked the energy he saw from his squad throughout the game.
"You can't always control the results," he said, "What you can control is the effort, the commitment and the belief in our structure and it was all there tonight."
"It's a tough league and even when you have your very best nights there's still a chance you can lose. Unfortunately, tonight was one of those nights," MacPherson added.
The X-Men (5-2) wasted little time, putting pressure on the Panthers (3-2-2) early and often. With the man advantage, St. F.X. had an opportunity to put a dent in the scoreboard, when the puck slipped under Matt Mahalak's pads but trickled just wide of the net, keeping the game locked up at zeroes.
St. F.X. capitalized on their chance at 6:06 when forward Anthony Difruscia found linemate Brent Turnbull open across the ice, where he sniped the puck top shelf, giving the X-Men a 1-0 advantage.
The Panthers first shot on goal came 10 minutes into the game on a Cody Payne wrister, but Marchand made the glove save to preserve the early advantage.
Payne's opportunity seemed to spark UPEI, as shots started to come their way. Eventually one found the back of the net late in the first, when Payne redirected an Austin Levi bullet from the blue line for the power play marker, tying the game at one apiece.
The Panthers momentum carried into the second period, as the pressure they once had to contend with shifted to St. F.X. But with the help of Marchand, the X-Men were able to hold off the threatening Panthers long enough to make their move. With only five minutes remaining in the second period, Cianfrone buried home the rebound off Michael Clarke's shot, pulling his team ahead 2-1 for the final.
"UPEI's a tough team to play against," Marchand said. "They're always pushing and they don't give us much, but we made the most of our opportunities when they came."
The Panthers won't have to wait long for an opportunity to bounce back, as they welcome the Dalhousie Tigers for a Saturday night tilt at MacLauchlan Arena. Puck drops at 7 p.m.