The Saint Mary’s Huskies are once again the Atlantic University Sports Champions after defeating Saint Francis Xavier in the best-of-three championship series.
The game, which lasted 97:17 minutes (going into triple overtime), was the second-longest in AUS history. This length of game was not unprecedented between these two teams, though, with the semifinal matchup between them last year also going to triple OT.
SMU’s Caitlyn Manning opened the scoring in the first, unassisted, before teammate Nicole Blanche took a body contact penalty, allowing the league’s most effective power play to capitalize, with SMU’s Jenna MacDonald leveling the slate just 30 seconds in. The second period went by goal-less for both teams, with goaltenders Ariana Orasanin and Rebecca Clarke holding off all attempts, despite SMU’s barrage of shots, as both teams failed to capitalize on the power play.
Daley Oddy put StFX in the lead early in the third as the X women set out to unseat the reigning AUS champions. However, at the halfway mark of the period, a turnover by StFX lead to SMU’s Blanche scoring off an assist by Hannah Askin. With both teams putting on the pressure, seeking to capitalize in regulation, StFX peppered SMU goaltender Clarke with shots in the final minute — however, the score remained tied and the two teams headed to their first overtime.
More importantly, what followed that goal was 57 minutes of scoreless hockey, with neither team able to break through in the first or second frame of OT. Over 30 shots were registered between the two teams, with the closest opportunity going to SMU’s Breanna Lanceleve whose possible goal was waved off on ice by the officials after an early whistle.
The goaltenders continued to battle each other save for save as overtime ticked on, with SMU’s Clarke making 43 saves throughout the night — and Orasanin topped that, making 51 before finally being beaten by Saint Mary’s Gemma MacDonald. MacDonald took a wrist shot from between the hashmarks seven minutes into the third consecutive period of overtime, and SMU to secured their second straight AUS title. The goal came when SMU defender Askin, who assisted on the game-tying goal in the the third, secured the puck behind her own net before making a breakout pass to Laura Polak, who was heading up the left wing as part of a two-on-three. Polak then slid it across to MacDonald just inside the offensive zone, and she went on to score high on the glove side for her first goal of the postseason — which would not have come at a better time.
This championship is the sixth in Saint Mary’s history — however, even with a new banner in the rafters, both the Saint Mary's Huskies and the Saint Francis Xavier X Women are looking to the U Sports Championships. Saint Mary’s in particular is going back with a lot to prove after placing a program-high third in the championship last season.