Antigonish - N.S. - On the strength of four goals from sophomore forward Holden Cook (Oshawa, ON), including the overtime winner, the StFX X-Men (#2) skated to a 5-4 victory over the visiting UNB Varsity Reds (#1) Saturday night, in a battle of the top teams in U Sports hockey, at the Keating Centre.
On the deciding marker, just 55 seconds into the extra session, Cook walked off the side boards and roofed a wrist shot over the glove of UNB goaltender Etienne Marcoux (Terrebonne, QC).
Kristoff Kontos (Penetanguishene, ON), with his second helper of the game, notched the lone assist.
In a back-and-forth battle of long-time rivals, no team led by more than one goal.
In the opening minutes of the first period, the X-Men enjoyed a 5-on-3 power play, for 90 seconds, but the home side came up empty. The best scoring opportunities came in a bang-bang sequence, but Marcoux steered aside three shots, including ones of the sticks of captain Eric Locke (Toronto, ON) and Kontos.
Shortly after the Varsity Reds returned to even strength, they opened the scoring. At 5:23, off a nifty saucer pass from Philippe Maillet (Terrebonne, QC), Rob Mignardi (Richmond Hill, ON) made it 1-0. X-Men goaltender Chase Marchand (Halifax, NS) got his left shoulder on the hard shot, but he could not keep it out of the back of the net.
StFX almost had the equalizer, off a rush from Mark Tremaine (Dartmouth, NS) and Cook, but Marcoux was able to smother the loose puck.
At 11:26, Locke engineered the tying goal. After winning a battle for the puck, just outside his own blue line against UNB defenseman Randy Gazzola (Thorold, ON), Locke led a two-on-one, before feeding Cook, who roofed a shot over Marcoux.
Just more than two minutes later, at 13:37, the Varsity Reds regained their lead, with Philippe Halley (Quebec City, QC) the marksman. After Gazzola smartly kept the puck in the X-Men zone, he fed Matt Boudens (Pembroke, ON), behind the net, who found Halley in the slot for a one-timer along the ice that beat Marchand just inside the goal post.
In the final minutes of the period, Marchand made a couple key stops to keep the UNB edge at one goal.
Cook, who completed the natural hat-trick with the only two goals of the second period, gave the X-Men a 3-2 edge, after 40 minutes.
At 12:08, on the power play, his centering attempt from the side of the net deflected off a UNB defender and behind Marcoux. Jagger Dirk (Penticton, BC) and Michael Clarke (London, ON) notched the helpers.
When Cook gave StFX their first advantage, at 16:15, Kontos was the set-up man.
Early in the third period, Boudens skated down the left wing and uncoiled a hard shot, but Marchand deflected it away with his glove hand.
At 3:29, UNB defenseman Marcus McIvor (Whitby, ON) put the teams on even terms, when his point shot floated, through a screen, by the glove of Marchand.
At 9:29, the X-Men regained the lead, when Cook connected with Locke, who scored his first of the game.
Less than two minutes later, at 11:13, Maillet scored, from Cam Braes (Shawinigan Lake, BC) and Mignardi, on the power play. Maillet made a great rush over the blue line, before beating Marchand stick side.
Marchand made 28 saves for the win, while Marcoux turned aside 13 shots in the loss.
Cook, with his five-point night, earned first star and Subway player of the game honours, while Locke and Halley garnered second and third star selections, respectively.
Both teams will return to action Friday, Oct. 28, when the X-Men travel to Charlottetown to face the UPEI Panthers (#9), while the Varsity Reds will host Dalhousie Tigers in Fredericton.
Puck-drop for both games is 7 p.m.
On the following night, at the same time, the X-Men and Varsity Reds will clash in Fredericton.