Fredericton, NB – The St. Thomas Tommies are your 2018-19 Atlantic University Sport women's hockey champions.
The Tommies defeated the St. Francis Xavier X-Women 2-1 Thursday night, taking the best of three series 2-1.
The championship marks the first for the Tommies in program history.
5th year goaltender Abby Clarke (Springdale, NL) was named Playoff MVP for the Tommies, posting a 4-1 record to go along with a 1.61 goals against average and a .944 save percentage.
"She's had a great year," said STU head coach Peter Murphy. "I thought she maybe deserved a look at first team all-star for the AUS, but she got second team and I think she used that as motivation for the playoffs."
The opening game of the series saw the teams combine for 31 shots during the first period, but game three was a different story as both teams were held to the perimeter and got into the shooting lanes, blocking several attempts. The game remained scoreless after the opening 20 minutes.
Early in the second frame the Tommies found themselves on the power-play, but it was the X-Women with the bulk of the scoring opportunities, with 1st year forward Lea MacLeod (Dartmouth, NS) capitalizing on a Tommies turnover and wiring a wrist shot past Clarke to put them up 1-0.
"I wasn't worried at all when they got the first one," said Clarke. "I said to myself 'we have ourselves a game now'. The girls turned it around and we put one right back in the net."
It was the old adage "defense leads to offense" that came true for the Tommies at the 12-minute mark of the second period. With the X-Women buzzing around the net looking for a two-goal lead, Clarke made an initial stop and then sprawled back to help keep the puck out of the net. Olivia Reid (Aurora, ON) was then sprung on a partial breakaway, and kept with the play to tuck it on a wraparound to tie the game.
Six minutes into the third period Danielle Ring (Saint John, NB) skated into the StFX zone, left the puck for Lauren Legault (Winnipeg, MB) who wired a shot between the legs of X-Women goalie, Carley Molnar (London, ON).
From there on out it was StFX who dominated the period, outshooting STU 18-3 in the frame. Clarke stopped all 18 of them, and 39 on the night, to help the Tommies capture their first AUS title.
"Coming into the third period we knew what we had to do," said Clarke after the game. "I wouldn't have had the third period any other way; having all those shots. It was amazing."
"It's one of the toughest feelings in sports when you play so hard all year, and play so well in the playoffs," said StFX head coach Ben Berthiaume. "This series was a great series with two great teams going at it and we came out a little short tonight. That's a tough pill to swallow and we are going to feel that for a while, but at the end of the day we will be better for it. We will come back even stronger next year."
With the victory the Tommies will join the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers as AUS representatives during the U Sport Women's Hockey Championships, hosted by the Panthers. The tournament will run from March 14th-17th in Charlottetown, PE.