Game recap by Kirk Jessome
(Halifax, NS) – To drop the puck on the 2019-20 AUS men's hockey season, the Dalhousie Tigers kicked off the year in dramatic fashion against the StFX X-Men on Wednesday. It took a shootout to settle it, but the X-Men eventually came all the way back for the 7-6 victory.
It didn't take long for someone to find the first goal of the season with the X-Men holding relentless pressure in the Tigers zone for the entire first minute of the game. Just before the opening minute passed, a soft pass from Matt Needham (Kamloops, BC) below the goal-line found Adam Laishram (Ashburn, ON) in the slot for an easy one-time goal.
The Tigers were finally able to break through in the frame, as captain Colton Heffley (Swift Current, SK) made a great move to create space and find Jonathan Cyr (Ottawa, ON) for a low shot that bounced off the pad of Raaymakers and right onto the stick of Heffley for the tap-in goal to tie it up at 1-1 just before the first intermission.
The Tigers were given their first power play of the game early in the second period and quickly took advantage. Working the puck in deep, Cyr set up Cameron Thompson at the point, and Thompson stepped into a hard wrist shot that snuck over the blocker-side shoulder of Raaymakers for the rookie's first AUS goal.
This time it was the X-Men who were having trouble staying out of the box and the Tigers power play was proving to be quite deadly. Dillon Boucher (Head Chezzetcook, NS) patiently waited at the point for Campbell Pickard (Halifax, NS) to step in front, and fired a hard shot that was perfectly tipped just inside the post for a 3-1 lead.
Just minutes later, once again on the man-advantage, the Tigers took just eight seconds to find another goal after a shot from Matt Green (Hammonds Plains, NS) left a rebound sitting in the paint for Pickard to tap home his second unanswered goal.
The X-Men were able to get one back before the end of the period however, with the momentum of penalties swinging back in their favour, they were able to establish long strings of puck possession. The goal came from Mark Tremaine (Dartmouth, NS) after a high shot from the point bounced off the chest of Connor Hicks (Kanata, ON) and into the paint for a quick tap-in to make it 4-2.
The goals didn't stop there in the period, with two minutes left the Tigers answered back. Green was able to streak down the left side on a partial break and take a tough angle shot that Raaymakers was able to get a piece of, but not enough as it got under the glove for Green's first AUS goal.
After an explosive second period, the teams headed into the final frame with the Tigers leading 5-2.
The X-Men were able to strike quickly in the third period, with Cole MacDonald (Wetaskiwin, AB) smartly using a Tigers defender to screen Hicks on a long shot that went just over the netminder's pad and in.
The Tigers answered right back with another power play goal however, with a shot from Chandler Yakimowicz (Kingston, PA) being stopped, but the rebound was hammered into the empty cage by Cyr.
After a major penalty was assessed to the Tigers, the X-Men were able to settle into an offensive groove in the attacking end, scoring less than a minute into the penalty. A high shot from the point was stopped by Hicks, but the rebound remained free for Sam Studnicka (Windsor, ON) to take a swing at. Hicks was able to stretch and get a piece of it with his stick, but not enough as it trickled in to make it 6-4 with 10 minutes to go.
The X-Men clawed their way back to within one with just over a minute to go, as Studnicka tapped in another rebound for his second goal of the game and keep the pressure on the Tigers.
After winning the faceoff, Raaymakers was pulled for an extra attacker, and the gamble quickly paid off, as Bryson Cianfrone (Stoney Creek, ON) stepped up and wired a shot into the top corner to tie it up with just seconds to go and force the game into overtime in thrilling fashion.
With extra time expiring, it came down to a shootout to decide a winner. With one scorer a-piece it came down to sudden death, and Adam Holwell (St. John's, NL) stepped up and made a great deke to get to the backhand and just barely slide it under the pad of Hicks to give the X-Men the comeback victory.
Sam Studnicka earned the Subway Player of the Game honour for his two-goal effort.
The Tigers will regroup and be back on the ice on Friday when they travel to face UPEI. The X-Men will then have their home-opener against UPEI on Saturday.