(Fredericton, NB) When the top two teams in a conference meet you would expect a close, hard fought game. That's exactly what the St. Thomas University Tommies and St. Francis Xavier X-Women did when they faced off Friday night, with the Tommies coming away with a 2-1 win in a shootout.
Both teams came into the tilt in the top ten of U-Sport rankings (StFX #8 and STU #6).
Both teams began the game strong defensively, getting into the shooting lanes to block several shots and limit scoring opportunities as after 20 minutes both teams were scoreless. It wasn't until the 9:17 mark of the second period that Lindsey Donovan (Miramichi, NB) skated towards the Tommies' blue line and floated the puck on net and fooled goaltender Abby Clarke (Springdale, NL).
The Tommies were outshot 30-22 through regulation, but found another gear in overtime, generating several scoring opportunities.
"Conditioning definitely helped," said Tommies' head coach, Peter Murphy, about his team's play in overtime. "The stair runs and early morning training they do through the week paid off."
The best chances in the overtimes came from both team captains, as Emily Oleksuk (Thunder Bay, ON) rang a shot off the cross bar and Sarah Bujold (Riverview, NB) was denied by Clarke on a breakaway.
Bujold and Emily Power (Airdrie, AB) would score in the shootout for StFX. Lauren Henman (Cow Bay, NS) would score once, and Lauren Legault (Winnipeg, MB) scored twice for the Tommies in the shootout.
"When Coach Peter called my name I was pretty nervous," said Legault. "I was thinking about plays in my head and then I just said I'll go out there and do whatever I feel in the moment. Then the second one I told myself I couldn't do the same move, so I changed it up."
"We knew what this game meant, and it could be the difference between two points and six points in the standings," said Tommies 5th year goaltender, Clarke, about the game's implications on the Atlantic University Sport standings. "It's a good kind of nervous coming into this game. They're a very, very good hockey team and we have to respect that. We took that good nervous and turned it into good energy."
Clarke made 34 saves through regulation and the two overtimes, and then stopped three of the five StFX shooters in the shootout to clinch the game for the Tommies. Molnar made 29 saves in the loss.
"I'm not the biggest fan of shootouts. I don't think any goalies are," said Clarke after the game.
StFX will return to action following the holiday break on January 4th when they host the UNB Reds, while the Tommies will host the St. Mary's Huskies on January 5th.