Antigonish, NS - The U SPORTS No. 8 ranked StFX X-Women closed out their final regular season home game with a 4-1 win over the league leading and U SPORTS No. 4 ranked St. Thomas Tommies.
The victory clinched second place in the AUS standings for the X-Women, guaranteeing them a first round playoff bye and a trip directly to the semifinals. The Tommies have already clinched first place and the other playoff bye.
The game started with the Tommies showing their first-place form but Carley Molnar (London, ON) made key saves in the StFX net and had great rebound control to keep the Tommies off the scoreboard.
As the period developed StFX gained their composure as STU found it more difficult to break out of their zone. At the 9:19 mark, Emily Power (Airdrie, AB) opened the scoring seconds after a face-off in the Tommies zone. In a rather innocuous play, Power put the puck to the side of the net and it ended up tucked in behind netminder Abby Clarke (Springdale, NL).
The second X-Women goal came from a great two-on-one rush by Emerson Elliott (Aurora, ON) and Lydia Schurman (Summerside, PE). Picking up the puck in the neutral zone, the two played catch down the ice before Schurman netted it past Clarke to put the X-Women up by two.
At this point the X-Women were controlling the play and the Tommies could not gain any sort of momentum - resorting to the long passes StFX were forced to use in the game's early minutes. This time, it was the turn of centre Emerson Elliott to find the back of the net. Schurman won the draw and Power fired a good shot on net. Rookie Hannah MacDonald (Wetaskiwin, AB) located Emerson, who found the open net.
The X-Women held onto the 3-0 advantage after 20 minutes, outshooting the Tommies 11-5 in the opening period.
The second period was a scoreless affair between the two teams. Both squads went to the man advantage, but solid goaltending by both Molnar and Clarke prevented a goal. The Tommies were first to go to the power-play. The line of Emily Oleksuk (Thunder Bay, ON), Lauren Henman (Cow Bay, NS) and Reid moved the puck around effectively, but they were bested by fine play of StFX's Hannah MacDonald.
The X-Women power-play made a number of precise passes as they looked to extend their lead. The best chance went to Tyra Meropoulis (Edison, AB) who stickhandled with the puck nicely before putting a hard backhand to the net that pinged off the post, to the relief of the Tommies bench.
Shots in the second period favoured the X-Women again, 14-9.
St. Thomas started the third period with great energy with Woods making a number of excellent plays to give her team much needed time in the X zone. Alisha Gilbert (Chipman, MB) got STU on the scoreboard as she found herself alone behind the StFX net as her teammates were completing a change. She wisely held on to the puck and came out at a perfect angle and roofed a shot past Molnar.
The duo of Reid and Henman looked like they would reduce the X-Women lead to one, but Molnar once again stood tall. The Tommies had the lone power-play opportunity of the period and despite some good puck movement, the X-Women never looked like giving up a goal.
The X-Women put a shine on seniors' night when Kristen McKinley (Rothesay, NB) deposited a goal into the empty net with only 11 seconds left on the clock.
Final shots finished out at 28-23 as the Tommies outshot the X-Women 9-3 in the final period.
Molnar took home first star and Subway player of the game honours with her 22 save performance. StFX's Lydia Schurman was the second star and Tommies forward Alisha Gilbert was the third star.
Both teams are back in action for one more weekend game to close out AUS regular season play. The Tommies will face the Dalhousie Tigers Saturday afternoon at 4:30pm in Halifax, while the X-Women will travel to Charlottetown to play UPEI Sunday afternoon at 2:00 pm.
The AUS quarter-final schedule will be announced Monday with first round match-ups to be determined between Saint Mary's, UNB, UPEI and Moncton.
Courtesy Bart Sears, StFX Sports Information