Lantz’s Bryan Gillis and the St. Francis Xavier X-Men are on the verge of an upset of epic proportions.
Buoyed by Gillis’ steady goaltending, the underdog X-Men have a stunning 2-0 stranglehold on the defending national champion New Brunswick Varsity Reds in the Atlantic University Sport best-of-five hockey semifinals. They can complete an improbable sweep when they host Game 3 tonight at 7 p.m.
Gillis, a rookie who has started 15 straight games for the X-Men, stopped 58 of 62 shots in a pair of 3-2 wins in Fredericton, N.B.
“He’s played very good, very composed, very confident, and our team in general has played well around him,” said X-Men head coach Brad Peddle. “We’ve kept pucks to the outside and cleared rebounds … As long as he’s seeing pucks like that, he’s going to stop them.”
Gillis, a 21-year-old who played major midget for the Halifax McDonald’s, was named Maritime Junior A Hockey League rookie of the year in 2005-06 with the Antigonish Bulldogs before spending two seasons in Salmon Arm, B.C., at the junior A level.
Gillis took over for St. F.X. after his running mate — fellow rookie Joseph Perricone — went down with a mid-season injury.
“Bryan took the ball and ran with it,” Peddle said.
Nobody could have seen this coming for fifth-seeded St. F.X. in early February, when the V-Reds had won 26 straight games and were on the verge of a perfect 28-0 season. But the X-Men ended that run on Feb. 12 and appear to have uncovered the secret to beating their formidable foe.
“We were focused on playing our game, putting it all out there and not listening to anyone tell us we’re underdogs,” Peddle said, before noting that his team’s work is far from done. “They’re certainly going to bring it. We’ve got to be ready.”