Atlantic University Sports Finals Preview
With the championship on the line, Saint Mary’s looks to defeat St Francis Xavier for their second straight Atlantic Title
The Atlantic finals are now set with Saint Mary’s Huskies, ranked third in the country after they topped the regular season charts, hosting St Francis Xavier. The X Women, who swept through Dalhousie in the quarterfinals outshooting them 13-2 over the two games before beating last year's runners-up St Thomas in a best of three to secured themselves place in the Atlantic Finals and the U Sports Championships. After missing out on back-to-back chances after being eliminated in the semis by St Mary last year in triple overtime, this year's Atlantic Finals will be a fitting rematch.
While the Huskies have been dominant all season, carrying on from their 3rd place at the Canadian Inter-University (now U-Sports) championships last year, StFX struggled, going 5-5 in their first ten games before heating up prior to the winter break and carrying that momentum with them all the way into February and the start of the Atlantic Finals.
St Francis Xavier entered the playoffs ranked third in the Atlantic after going 8-2 in their last 10 to finish their season with a 18-8 record. Forward Sarah Bujold topped the points table with a career best 24 goals and 19 assists to make up 43 points while captain Kara Power finished third with 35 points, continuing her run into the playoff season recording 10 points in five games so far. With Ariana Orasanin in net, the X Women have won 4 of 5 playoff games so far with Orasanin recording a .910 save percentage throughout that time.
While StFX have clawed their way to the Atlantic finals, St Mary’s finished first in the regular season standing with a record of 18-3-3 and 39 points, giving them a first round bye before they took down Moncton in 3 games. The Saint Mary’s team is a well-rounded one, sitting in the top three in goals per game and save percentage while forwards Breanna Lanceleve and Caitlyn Manning finished second and third, respectively, in regular season scoring. In net, St Mary’s has Rebecca Clarke, who is back after her Rookie of the Year award and has had a sensational sophomore season with a career best .993 save percentage throughout the regular season. While Clarke is still young, the goaltender lead SMU to bronze at last year's CIS championships, eventually being presented with the player of the game award after a 28-save win, and the Huskies will be looking for a repeat of that performance this March.
The first game of the finals will be Friday the 3rd where the teams will play out in a best of three competition over the next week which can watched on AUStv (streamed here) before heading to Queen's University in Napanee, Ontario for the National U-Sports Championship from the 16th to the 19th of March.