HALIFAX, N.S. - The Saint Mary's Huskies men's hockey team continued their winning ways on Wednesday night, with a 2-0 win over the Acadia Axemen.
The Huskies came into the game with a 9-11-2 record after winning two games last week over Moncton and UNB, thanks to some stellar goaltending by Justin Sumarah (Halifax, NS), who was named AUS Athlete of the Week. Sumarah was back in nets on Wednesday night to take on the Axemen, who came into action with a 7-13-1 record, fresh off a 6-3 win on Saturday against Moncton.
Wednesday's game was also Senior Night, as the Huskies celebrated six graduating players – Logan DeNoble, Keith Getson, Jonathan Hampton, Xavier Potvin, Dawson Theede, and Matthew Welsh.
The Huskies also got a boost on Wednesday with the return of defenceman Dennis Busby, who was back in the lineup for the first time since November 6.
The two teams looked to be evenly matched early, with neither team taking much control of the action. Six minutes into the game, the Huskies a powerplay opportunity after Axemen forward Merrick Rippon was sent to the box for crosschecking. The Huskies were able to put up just one shot on goal, as the Axemen effectively killed off the man-advantage.
Moments after Rippon returned to the ice, Dawson Theede (Brooklin, ON) was sent to the box for boarding, giving a man advantage to the Axemen, who came into the game with the top-ranked powerplay in the AUS. Acadia was able to get several shots on the powerplay, the most dangerous from Adam McMaster off a nice toe-drag move, but Sumarah was able to shut the door.
The Huskies would spend several more first-period minutes on the penalty kill, as Nathan Dunkley (Campbellford, ON) and Joel Bishop (St. John's, NL) each took penalties, but Acadia was not able to capitalize.
At the end of the first period, the Axemen had posted 11 shots on the net, while the Huskies recorded eight shots on goal.
It was more of the same in the second period, as the team's opened the action with back-and-forth play, and neither team had too many dangerous scoring opportunities.
Nearly seven minutes into the period, there was a scramble in front of the Axemen net, and Bishop thought he had scored, but the puck hit the post and somehow stayed out before being covered up by Max Paddock.
As David Berube (Price, QC) was able to power down the right-wing and cut inside, leaving the puck for Ben Higgins (Truro, NS), who was able to put it past Paddock for his first career AUS goal, giving the Huskies a 1-0 lead with just over seven minutes remaining in the period.
With just under three minutes remaining in the second period, Acadia's Adam McMaster was sent to the penalty box. The Huskies' powerplay looked good cycling the puck and were able to get off several shots, but Paddock shut the door, keeping his team within a goal into the second intermission.
The Huskies were able to outshoot the Axemen 17-7 in the second period.
The third period began with another unsuccessful powerplay opportunity for each team. The Axemen thought they had a goal when a Reilly Webb point shot looked to have beaten Sumarah, but defenceman Walter Flower II was able to clear it off the goal line to keep the shutout alive.
A few minutes later it was the Huskies who thought they had scored, as Joel Bishop forced the puck into the net, but the officials waved it off.
The Axemen took a timeout and pulled their goalie with 1:39 remaining in the game. With 16 seconds remaining, Getson picked up a loose puck against the wall and fired it from the Acadia zone into the empty net, to secure the 2-0 Huskies victory.
Sumarah was named Subway Player of the Game, making 25 saves for his first career shutout, and has now saved 100 of 104 shots over his first three AUS starts, for a sparkling .962 save percentage.
Ben Higgins was named second star, while Axemen goalie Max Paddock, who saved 29 of 30 shots faced, was named third star.
With the win, the Huskies improve to 10-11-2 on the season, and clinch a top 5 playoff position, giving them an automatic berth to the quarterfinals. The Huskies will next travel to Charlottetown on Friday night to take on the UPEI Panthers (9-9-4), in their final game of the regular season.
The Axemen loss drops their record to 7-14-1 on the season. The Axemen are scheduled host the UPEI Panthers on Saturday night in their final game of the regular season.
Recap by Allan April / SMU Huskies Athletics
Photos by Nick Pearce / SMU Huskies Athletics