Fresh off their first Atlantic University Sport Championship in program history, the St. Thomas University Tommies women’s hockey team will be in Charlottetown, PE for the U Sport Women’s Hockey Championships this week.
The Tommies come into the Championships as the #4 seed and will be joined by the #1 Alberta Pandas, #2 Montreal Carabins, #3 Guelph Gryphons, #5 McGill Martlets, #6 Manitoba Bisons, #7 UPEI Panthers and #8 Toronto Varsity Blues.
The first matchup for the Tommies will be Friday, March 15th against the McGill Martlets. The Martlets come into the tournament with a 14-6 record and were RSEQ finalists, losing the RSEQ Championship to Montreal in two games. The Tommies faced McGill in preseason action, their second game of the year, losing 2-0 on the road.
“I think we are a different team now than when we played,” said head coach Peter Murphy about facing the Martlets again. “I am sure they are as well, so I don’t put too much stock in that game. They are a very good team and well coached, so we will have to be on our game and bring it to a higher level than the conference final.”
The Martlets offense is led by Kellyane Lecours, who finished the season with 10 goals, and Jade Downie-Landry, who led the team in points with 23. Tricia Deguire was one of the top goaltenders in the country, finishing with a 13-6 record, 1.46 GAA and .949 SV%.
The last time the Tommies made the U Sport Championships was in 2015-16 season. There are nine players returning for STU who went to that Championship in Calgary, AB.
“I think there are nine of us who have been to nationals, so we are really excited to get another kick at the can,” said captain Emily Oleksuk, who is one of those nine players. “Knowing what to expect going in and being able to share that knowledge with the other girls is a huge advantage. We were seeded much lower in 2016, and this time we are seeded 4th with an AUS title under our belt, so we are going in with confidence and expecting to play some really high caliber hockey against some really high caliber teams. It should be an incredible week and I’m really grateful to be able to share this experience with this special group.”
This trip to the Championships will be a little different for the Tommies, as they won’t have to travel across the country, just a short trip across the Confederation Bridge, to a rink they have played in three times this season already.
“Last time we were at Nationals they were in Calgary,” said Murphy, this season’s AUS Coach of the Year. “Very different situation here as we will know the rink and have been very successful over there as well. Since the Championships are close by, we expect to have good support from Tommies Nation. This will allow us to feel like we are continuing right where we left off in our games vs StFX. This can hopefully allow that momentum from AUS Championships to continue.”
Murphy knows there has been many factors that have helped the Tommies get to this point, including the work the players and the staff have put in and the fans.
“On behalf of the coaching staff, support staff and trainers I want to thank all of our fans for their tremendous support. You have no idea what it means to the players to suddenly be stars on social media and receiving congratulations out shopping around town or getting emails from profs, past coaches, family members. We are not AUS Champions without our fans.”