By Earl Zukerman
Marc-André Daneau scored the game-winner at 11:26 of the third period as second-seeded McGill rallied for a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over the No. 5 St. Francis Xavier X-Men in the opener of the CIS men’s hockey championship, Thursday afternoon, in front of 3,412 at the University of New Brunswick’s Aitken Centre.
The OUA champion Redmen (1-0) now earn a day off in Pool B at the Cavendish University Cup and will face No. 3 Alberta (0-0) in their final round-robin contest on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Atlantic, live on Rogers Sportsnet. The AUS finalist X-Men (0-1) will battle Alberta Friday at 2 p.m. Atlantic.
The high-flying Redmen, who led the country in scoring for the second straight year in the regular season with 5.04 goals per game, were held off the score sheet for over 46 minutes by St.FX goaltender Joseph Perricone, an AUS all-star from San Juan Capistrano, California.
Perricone, who was named the X-Men player of the game following a 38-save effort, stood on his head all afternoon and had stopped 28 shots through two periods including 16 in the middle frame.
With McGill trailing 1-0 heading into the final stanza, Guillaume Doucet finally put the Redmen on the scoreboard at the 6:24 mark. The assistant captain from Anjou, Que., took a long pass from Simon Marcotte-Légaré of Longueuil, Que., and turned on the jets as he entered the StFX zone, skating around defenceman Nick Pageau and cut to the net to beat Perricone on the far side.
“That’s why I like to play on the off-wing. I’ve had success with that move lately,” said Doucet, who was McGill’s second-leading goal scorer during the regular season with 15 markers in 28 games. “I just put my shoulder down and cut to the net.”
Doucet, who earned Game MVP honours for McGill, was also in on the winning play five minutes later.
Following a broken play on a three-on-two rush, the 5-foot-9 speedster recovered the puck behind the net and sent it in front to Daneau, who beat Perricone with a one-timer along the ice.
“He (Perricone) was so good, we knew we had to drive the net, we knew the next goal would probably come on a rebound or something,” said Daneau, a third-year forward from Daveluyville, Que., who tallied for the first time in nine playoff contests after scoring five times in 28 conference outings. “And that’s what happened. The puck just got to my stick and I banged it in.”
“There was a sense of frustration in the locker room after the second period but we weren’t overly concerned, we weren’t panicking or anything,” said OUA East coach of the year Kelly Nobes, in his first season behind the McGill bench after stints with RMC and Wilfrid Laurier. “We had a couple of come-from-behind wins during the season. We were relentless in the third. We had so many good scoring chances, we knew one was going to go in eventually.”
McGill netminder Hubert Morin of St. Georges de Beauce, Que., finished with 25 stops for McGill, none bigger than a mind-boggling stick save with five minutes remaining in regulation.
With the X-Men applying pressure in hopes of tying things up, Morin was caught out of position and Matthew Bragg fired into what looked like an open cage but the puck somehow found Morin’s stick and deflected into the right corner.
“Definitely Top 10,” commented Daneau, when asked where the play ranked among all the saves he’s seen over the years.
With StFX down a man only 25 seconds into the game, Perricone made a huge pad save off a Doucet one-timer one minute in and was stellar until the final whistle.
The affair remained scoreless until the 15th minute of the second period when StFX’s Jason Bast showed everyone why he was named the CIS rookie of the year on Wednesday night.
The 5-foot-10 centre from Moose Jaw, Sask., undressed rearguard Ryan McKiernan at the blue-line before beating Morin high on the stick side.
Bragg, a native of Newmans Cove, Nfld., had almost opened the scoring five minutes earlier but hit the cross-bar at the end of a two-on-one.
“It’s obviously very disappointing. But we have to regroup quickly and focus on Alberta tomorrow. We’re not out of this thing,” said Brad Peddle, in his sixth season at the helm with St.FX. “We had great chances, they had great chances. They just capitalized on one more.”
Both teams were blanked on the power play, McGill on five chances and St.FX on two opportunities.
University Cup website: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/mice