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Goal­tender Blade Mann-dixon is back in Antigo­nish and with the X-men

The Casket - - Sports - RICHARD MACKEN­ZIE richard­mac@the­cas­ket.ca

Blade is back.

Goal­tender Blade Mann-dixon is back in Antigo­nish and with the St. F.X. X-men af­ter a ju­nior ca­reer that in­cluded a few dif­fer­ent stops, in two leagues; con­clud­ing just a cou­ple of hours down the road with the Hal­i­fax Moose­heads.

Drafted by the Saint John Sea Dogs in the 2014 Que­bec Ma­jor Ju­nior Hockey League (QMJHL) draft, Mann-dixon also suited up briefly for the Monc­ton Wild­cats and Char­lot­te­town Is­lan­ders be­fore land­ing with the Moose­heads in se­cond part of the 2016-17 sea­son.

The first over­all pick in the Mar­itime Ju­nior Hockey League’s 2013 draft by the Val­ley Wild­cats, Mann-dixon also spent parts of two sea­sons with the Ber­wick­based ju­nior ‘A’ team, where he was named league rookie of the year for the 2013-14 sea­son and a first-team all-star the fol­low­ing sea­son, while record­ing the top goals-against-aver­age (2.40).

Prior to his ju­nior hockey days, Mann-dixon manned the pipes for the lo­cal Nova Ma­jor Ban­tams (Jr. X-men at the time) and Cape Bre­ton West Ma­jor Mid­get Is­lan­ders.

“Lit­er­ally, ban­tam,” Man­ndixon said, when asked about the last time his home rink was this close to his ac­tual home, a ref­er­ence to the No­vas us­ing both Port Hawkes­bury and Antigo­nish as their base of op­er­a­tions.

He said be­ing close to home was part of the ap­peal when talk­ing to the X-men.

“They kind of came in a lit­tle late in the mix; I was talk­ing to a few teams, but once they came in and said they were in­ter­ested, it was kind of a no-brainer for me,” Mann-dixon said, talk­ing to the Cas­ket Sept. 26.

Asked about what he learned from his ju­nior hockey ex­pe­ri­ence, Mann-dixon was able to cap­ture the mes­sage in two words.

“Have fun,” he said. “It’s pretty cliché but, if you’re not hav­ing fun when you’re play­ing, then …” he said, not com­plet­ing his sen­tence but, def­i­nitely, his thought.

Mann-dixon said he was for­tu­nate to have a num­ber of good goalie coaches while in ju­nior, point­ing out former Moose­heads’ goalie coach Eric Ray­mond in par­tic­u­lar.

“They helped me tremen­dously,” he said. “I learned so much; es­pe­cially last year with Eric. He works with an AHL team and a cou­ple of other col­leges; he was a big help to me and I think that showed.”

Ray­mond left the Moose­heads at the start of this year to take on an ex­panded role with the AHL team Mann-dixon ref­er­enced — the Hart­ford Wolf Pack.

Now a rookie in the U Sports ranks, Mann-dixon was asked about his ex­pec­ta­tions for this sea­son.

“Just take it as it comes, hon­estly; prove that I can play here,” he said, not­ing he was pleased with a start he had the pre­vi­ous week­end in pre-sea­son ac­tion.

“It went pretty well … I just have to keep that up,” he said.

In the X-men crease, Man­ndixon joins Chase Marc­hand, the de­fend­ing U Sports’ goal­tender of the year and AUS most valu­able player, amongst other ac­co­lades earned by Hal­i­fax na­tive dur­ing his two years with the Blue and White.

“He has played re­ally well and con­tin­ued to do so in the pre­sea­son, so it’s just about what I can learn from him,” Mann-dixon said, adding he had the op­por­tu­nity to get to know Marc­hand prior to join­ing the X-men.

“He is a great guy. He has been to two NHL camps so far; so just talk­ing to him a bit, I can pick up a few things.”

Jr. X-men to X-men

St. F.X. head coach Brad Ped­dle pointed out Mann-dixon join­ing the pro­gram marks a sig­nif­i­cant lo­cal hockey con­nec­tion.

“The first Jr. X-man to ac­tu­ally be an X-man, it’s a pretty spe­cial thing,” Ped­dle said, ref­er­enc­ing Mann-dixon’s ma­jor ban­tam days.

“So he is very fa­mil­iar to our pro­gram and we’ve known Blade for a long time; fol­lowed his progress, ba­si­cally, right from atom to ma­jor ju­nior and now here.”

Ped­dle said he is a great ad­di­tion.

“Right now, he gives us some great depth at that po­si­tion,” Ped­dle said, not­ing Mann-dixon is well aware he is join­ing the reign­ing league MVP and na­tional goalie of the year..

“He’ll be able to work well with Chase and they’ll be able to push one an­other. He played that one game on the road and was out­stand­ing; so he’ll get his op­por­tu­ni­ties … he just has to be real pa­tience right now.”

Tough losses to start

The X-men first week­end of reg­u­lar sea­son play (Sept. 28 and 29) saw them drop a cou­ple of ex­tra-ses­sion games; a 2-1 over­time loss at Aca­dia Fri­day night, and a shootout loss, in a game played Satur­day at the Antigo­nish Arena, by a 5-4 count.

“It’s a fine line in this league, as most know,” Ped­dle said.

“Ob­vi­ously, the thing we’re not happy with is in the Satur­day night game, when you lead a good team like St. Mary’s by three in the third pe­riod, you have to find a way to put them away. But, in­stead, we gave them some life, let them back in the game and, be­fore you know it, it’s go­ing to a shootout.

“We have to learn from that. We got two points but, cer­tainly,

not happy with two when we could have had more.”

Ped­dle said there were pos­i­tives from the week­end.

“It’s a tough rink in Aca­dia and we could have won that in over­time; we had our chances,” he said. “In the se­cond game, I re­ally liked our first and se­cond, how en­gaged we were, go­ing right af­ter them on puck drop. But when you’re play­ing those good clubs, you have to make sure you’re pay­ing at­ten­tion to the de­tails for 60 min­utes and, in both games, we got away from that in spurts.”

Adam Stevens, from Matt Need­ham and Santino Cen­torame on a power-play, scored for St. F.X. ver­sus Aca­dia.

Matthew Gra­ham, An­thony Difr­us­cia, Cen­torame and Stevens scored ver­sus the Huskies with as­sists com­ing from Need­ham, Bai­ley Web­ster, Bryson Cian­frone, Aaron Hoyles, Sam Studnicka and Adam Holwell.

Marc­hand played both games for the X-men, mak­ing 33 saves ver­sus Aca­dia and 31 ver­sus SMU.

St. F.X. is home Wed­nes­day (Oct. 10) ver­sus Aca­dia. Puck drop for the Keat­ing Cen­tre con­test is 7 p.m. They play the Huskies on the road this week­end

Richard Macken­zie

Af­ter a ju­nior ca­reer that con­cluded in Hal­i­fax with the Moose­heads, as ev­i­denced by the hel­met art, Antigo­nish’s Blade Mann-dixon has re­turned home and is suit­ing up for the St. F.X. X-men.

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