Antigonish, NS — In a see-saw game, the UPEI Panthers came out on top with a 6-5 shootout win over the StFX X-Men Saturday night at the Charles V. Keating Centre in front of over 900 fans.
Kyle Maksimovich (Oakville, ON) scored the game-tying goal in the third period and then notched the shootout winner to lift the Panthers to victory.
After UPEI got out to a 3-1 first period lead, the X-Men scored four answered second period goals to gain a 5-3 lead. The Panthers came back with a pair of early third period goals and the game remained deadlocked, forcing the overtime and eventual shootout.
It was the X-Men who got on the board first 6:20 into the opening period as Bryson Cianfrone (Stoney Creek, ON) got a loose puck behind the Panthers net to an open Matt Needham (Pentincton, BC) who deposited it into the open mesh past Simon Hofley (Ottawa, ON).
Just over two minutes later the Panthers answered with a pair of goals scored only a minute apart. Both goals came during 4-on-4 play with some open ice.
Jordan Maher (Gander, NL) connected with Owen Headrick (Garden River, ON) on the first goal as he made a back door pass to a streaking Headrick who tipped the puck.
Maksimovich scored the second Panthers goal, beating X netminder Joseph Raaymakers (Chatham, ON) on a pass from Troy Lajeunesse (Stratford, ON).
The visitors went up 3-1 on a power play marker by Filip Rydstrom (Charlottetown, PE) with 4:22 left in the period.
The X-Men had their own power play opportunity with a 5-on-3 advantage after Panthers forward Riley Whittingham (Calgary, AB) was assessed a five minute major for boarding. They were unable to convert and the 3-1 Panthers lead held up after 20 minutes, despite the X-Men holding a 12-6 shot advantage in the opening period.
StFX had a big second period, scoring four unanswered goals to take a 5-3 lead.
The first one came 2:48 into the second while on the power play. Adam Holwell (St. John's, NL) found Matt Graham (Bedford, NS) down low beside the Panthers net and he beat Hofley on the short open side.
X-Men veteran forward Mark Tremaine (Dartmouth, NS) got a rebound off a Santino Centorame (Mississauga, ON) shot from the point and scored on a nifty behind the back shot to even the game at three goals aside.
StFX then scored a pair of goals 25 seconds apart with under two minutes to play in the period off the sticks of Cianfrone and Sam Studnicka (Windsor, ON).
UPEI fought right back in the third period, scoring two goals in the opening seven minutes to even the score again.
Kameron Kielly (Charlottetown, PE) tallied unassisted just 42 seconds into the period then Maksimovich scored the game-tying goal – his second of the night – capitalizing on a rebound in front of the X net.
The X-Men had their chances to score a go-ahead goal. Holwell hit the cross bar with seven minutes left while on the power play.
The X-Men had another man-advantage later in the period where they generated a lot of shots but could not score, leaving the 5-5 score standing at the end of regulation.
StFX doubled the Panthers in shots at 40-21 as Hofley came up with several key saves to keep his team in the game.
He kept up the strong play in overtime as the X-Men had more chances to score but could not put the puck in the net and the 5-5 deadlock remained after the five-minute extra period.
Maksimovich was the lone goal scorer in the shootout as the Panthers skated away with the two points.
Hofley, with 39 saves on the night earned Subway player of the game honours. Maksimovich was the second star and StFX's Tremaine was third star.
Both teams now head into the final week of AUS regular season play. The Panthers will host Moncton on Wednesday night then head to UNB on Friday night.
The X-Men will play in Halifax Friday night against SMU then return home to host Acadia on Saturday night.
The first quarterfinal round of AUS playoffs will be played between Feb. 11-16 with the third place team versus sixth, and fourth and fifth place teams meeting.
UNB and Acadia already have first and second place locked up in the standings, leaving SMU, Moncton, StFX and UPEI to battle out third through sixth places and determine playoff opponents.
Recap courtesy StFX Sports Information
Photos by Kendra Vigneau, StFX