(Halifax, NS) The Saint Mary's University Huskies men's hockey team staved off semifinal elimination with a 6-2 win over the Acadia Axemen. The Axemen headed into the game up two games to none in the series, but home ice advantage worked in the Huskies favor as their playoff hopes stay alive for at least one more game.
The Huskies opened the scoring less than three minutes into the period after a flurry of shot attempts. After a wrist shot from the point, Keith Getson (Bridgewater, NS) grabbed the rebound, but goalie Logan Flodell (Regina, SK) made a nice stop. Joel Bishop (St. John's, NL) got the puck, however, and passed it to Dawson Theede (Brooklin, ON) who put it over Flodell and into the net.
Halfway through the period, Bishop fought to carry the puck into Acadia's zone. He was taken down near the corner, but got the puck to Noah Zilbert (Fredericton, NB), who threaded it through the slot to Stephen Johnson (Moncton, NB). Johnson got the puck to the net before Flodell could come across to stop it, making it 2-0 for the Huskies.
In the second half of the period, the Axemen had some sustained pressure, forcing the Huksies to ice the puck several times. Acadia got 14 shots on net in the first period, but the bulk of scoring opportunities belonged to the Huskies. Acadia's best chance came midway through the period, when a one timer from Loch Morrison (Christopher Lake, SK) rang off the post.
Saint Mary's extended their lead, however, with four and a half minutes to go. A shot from the point from Sam Dunn (Hamilton Township, ON) was redirected by Zilbert. Flodell made the initial save but Sam King (Hampton, NB) put the rebound home.
Conor McGlynn added another tally for the Huskies with just over a minute left in the period. Picking up a bouncing puck in the neutral zone, he rushed down the left wing and fired a slap shot top corner.
On the next play, Acadia had a good scoring chance on a three on two, but goalie Eric Brassard (St. Hubert, QC) was solid and kept them off the board.
The Huskies led 4-0 heading into the second period.
Special teams made the second period an exciting one. Early on, over a minute of four on four hockey led to end to end chances. Midway through the period, Acadia had a five on three advantage. Their good puck movement caused the Huskies to scramble a few times, but the penalties ended with no scoring.
The Axemen had the only goal of the second period, getting on the board with under five minutes to go. A turnover by the Huskies' defense inside the Acadia blue line was jumped on by Mason McCarty (Blackie, AB). He chipped the puck up to Stephen Harper (Burlington, ON) for a breakaway. Harper beat Brassard blocker side, narrowing the lead to 4-1 at the end of the second period. Shots in the second frame went 12-11 in favor of the Huskies.
The Axemen had a strong start to the third period, scoring less than two minutes in. At the end of a dominant shift cycling the puck, McCarty almost split the defense and sent a wrist shot that beat Brassard glove side.
The Huskies had a quick response, however, getting a power play goal less than 30 seconds later. On the right half wall, Mitchell Balmas (Sydney, NS) passed to Johnson at the far side of the net. Johnson got his second goal of the game with a low shot. Nicholas Welsh (Halifax, NS) also assisted as the Huskies regained their three-goal lead.
The game got a little chippy after that, with lots of penalties to both teams.
Acadia had a great chance on the power play when a shot from Liam Maaskant (Clinton, ON) at the point was redirected and hit the post.
With six and a half minutes to go, the Axemen were on the power play and pulled their goalie for the six on four advantage. When that play didn't work, Flodell went back between the posts for another couple minutes. They pulled him again with over three minutes to go, but King scored an empty net goal to make it 6-2 for the Huskies. That would be the final score of the game.
The Subway Player of the Game, with two goals, was Stephen Johnson.
Game four of the series will be back at the Dauphinee Centre tomorrow night (February 25th) and game five, if necessary, will be played at Acadia on Thursday, February 27th.
Sarah Moore, SMU
Photo Nick Pearce