Nova Scotia

St. FX X-Men and Saint Mary's Huskies eye CIS hockey title

The eight best university men's hockey teams in Canada are in Halifax for the University Cup, which starts Thursday night at Scotiabank Centre. Three of those teams, St. F X, Saint Mary's and UNB, are from the Atlantic conference.

Single elimination format leaves no room for error in University Cup in Halifax

St. Francis Xavier X-Men Jarrad Struthers battles Alberta Golden Bears Jordan Rowley, left, in front of goaltender Kurtis Mucha in CIS playoff hockey action in Halifax on March 13, 2015. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

When you play in a national championship tournament the competition is tough.

The St. Francis Xavier and Saint Mary's university men's hockey teams have drawn very tough teams for their quarter-final games at this week's CIS men's University Cup tournament in Halifax.

Thursday night the AUS champion X-men will play the defending national champs and perennial powerhouse University of Alberta, while the host Huskies have drawn No. 1 ranked Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Friday night.

"They're a very highly skilled team and they have a great power play," said Saint Mary's coach Trevor Steinburg. "We'll have to impose our presence upon them but stay out of the penalty box and manufacture as many opportunities at the net whether they're pretty or not." 

UQTR cruised through their playoffs, winning all 7 games to claim the OUA title. 

They knocked out Acadia in a huge come-from-behind overtime win in the quarter-finals at last year's University Cup.

'It's life on the edge'

The Huskies, who enter the tournament as the host team, lost to St. FX in the AUS playoffs and it will be two weeks between games when they hit the ice against les Patriotes at Scotiabank Centre.

In a tournament where if you lose, you are eliminated, the Huskies will have to come out strong.

"That's what makes this tournament so exciting for the fans," said Steinburg. "It's life on the edge and it's good for the tournament, but it's not what these players are used to."

The Huskies won the University Cup in 2010.

In Antigonish, the hockey X-men are the talk of the town. They were red hot down the stretch and beat Saint Mary's and UNB to win their first AUS title since 2004.

"I think it was just a carry over of things we've been working on all year and it's all come together at the right time," said St. FX coach Brad Peddle. "When we got into that Saint Mary's series we really felt a lot of energy."

X-men seek redemption

The X-Men will have redemption on their minds when they face off with the Golden Bears in their opener Thursday night.

Alberta easily beat St. FX 5-1 in a quarter-final game at the University Cup last year. The Bears went on to beat UNB in the final.

"Our guys remember Alberta from last year and they have a lot of guys back from that team," said Peddle. "The way we look at it is we were not happy with the result last year and we are a very different team, so we're looking forward to the matchup."

The other quarter-final games will see No. 2 ranked and Canada West champs Saskatchewan play Carleton Thursday afternoon.

A big crowd from Fredericton is expected to make their way to Halifax for UNB's opening game Friday afternoon when they play the University of Western Ontario Mustangs.