The Dalhousie Tigers opened their regular season on October 1 in front of a large and boisterous predominately student crowd at the Halifax Forum. They lost 5-0 to the St. Francis Xavier (St. FX) X-Men. Led by X-Men third year forward and reigning AUS (Atlantic University Sport) MVP Eric Locke, the X-men took control early of the game in the first period and never looked back. They scored just 41 seconds into the first period after a defensive breakdown by the Tigers – goaltender Corbin Boes had no chance on the play.
The Tigers seemed to settle down defensively after the first goal by collapsing back into the defensive zone to prevent the X-Men as much time and space to manoeuvre. Despite their strategy the Tigers did not make it out of the rest of the period unscathed, as they allowed a goal by the X-Men in the final minute of the period.
The second goal acted as a turning point in the game. The two goals at the beginning and end of the first period set the tone for both teams, to Dalhousie’s detriment. A power play goal just over a minute into the second period, once again by Eric Locke, ultimately sealed the Tigers fate, as a 3-0 deficit is a near impossible one for a team to come back from.
The second period only got worse for the Tigers as they took six penalties compared to zero for the X-Men. It was clear that frustration was setting in for the players. Dalhousie barely challenged second year St. FX goalie Brandon Hope at all, largely due to the fact that the team spent the majority of the second period in the penalty box.
On a positive note, the support for the home team never wavered as spectators continued to show up well into the second period. Many students took part in the in game “Friday Night Flights” promotion, and three lucky winners went home with a prize at the end of the night. In addition, the first thirty students in attendance also received free athletic style Dalhousie Tigers t-shirts that many wore during the game, furthering the Tigers support.
The third period also did not inspire much confidence as the Tigers gave up a shorthanded breakaway on a poor turnover at the St. FX blue line, and Sam Studnicka wasted no chance putting a fourth goal past Boes. Boes was replaced with seven minutes left in the game by third year back up Joseph Gladnick, who was solid in mop up duty making 6 saves.
Ultimately, three main factors played a part in the Tigers loss: giving up goals in the first and last minute of a period as a result of poor defensive breakdowns, the lack of success on the special teams, and the speed of the St. FX forwards. Dalhousie was just out-possessed, out-chanced, outshot (the downfall of the team last season; they gave up 30 on this night) and just overall outmatched by a very strong St. FX team.