As the AUS regular season winds down in ice hockey, there is a familiar site at the top of the standings. StFX is off to another rollicking season as they have garnered a 19-1-4 record on the year, good for second in the AUS, behind University of New Brunswick.
Jagger Dirk is the key cog on the Defense, with 22 points on the year for the senior from Penticton, BC. Dirk was a former player for the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League. He had a very successful five-year career with them, contributing 48 points in his final year with the junior club. In his fourth year with StFX, Dirk has solidified himself as the number one Defenseman in the AUS, as he has already surpassed last year’s point total by nine.
The three-headed monster of Holden Cook, Matt Needham and Michael Clarke have provided timely scoring, contributing eight game winning goals on the year.
Oshawa born Cook is the leading the team in points, with 29. Prior to StFX, Cook was a shut-down forward for the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League. His point scoring was modest at best in the OHL, but StFX has provided a unique opportunity for him to flourish.
Ontario-born Clarke, along with Needham, are tied for second on the team with 27 points.
Leading the way in goal has been second year Halifax native Chase Marchand. He is leading the league in both save percentage (.931) and goals against average (2.10).
The X-Men is led by head coach Brad Peddle. He is in his 13th year at the helm of StFX. He previously played for StFX as a student from 1995-1999. Through his guidance, the team has rattled off 12 consecutive AUS playoff appearances, including five University Cup championship appearances. He is still looking for an elusive national championship, which would be the first since 2004, coached under Danny Flynn.
Peddle stressed the importance of garnering character players for the team. “We really try to recruit guys who will buy in to what StFX is about and will fit into the culture that we have created. Great People, great students and great hockey players.”
StFX is locked in a two-horse battle for first in AUS this year with UNB. The squads have split the season series so far at two-a-piece. StFX has bested UNB in the past two AUS finals, however it was UNB who defeated StFX in the 2016 National Championship, which took place in Halifax. They are also victors from the year after, defeating the University of Saskatchewan. StFX is hungry for another crack at the defending champions, should they play in the playoffs. Luckily, the team is laden with good, experienced character players, with many of them having played in that heartbreaking final in 2016.
“X and UNB seemed to have played against each other for as long as I remember in the playoffs. And at the end of the day, it is just two good hockey programs bringing out the best in one another.”
Coach Peddle had the opportunity to coach the U Sports All Star team in December, as they played two games against the Canadian World Junior team. The team defeated Team Canada in back to back matches. Holden Cook, Jagger Dirk and Michael Clarke were all selected for the team.
On the experience, Peddle commented: “Players didn’t know each other very well so we had to try to bring them together quickly. This year we did some team building activities in hope that it paid off, and it did!” He was an assistant coach with the team the previous year.
With six games left on the year, the team looks to garner a number one spot in the AUS Playoffs. The final two home games are against Dalhousie and Moncton on the 2nd and 3rd of February.