SACKVILLE, N.B. — The AUS women's hockey championship began Thursday without any upsets, but it would be difficult to ask for a pair of closer games to open the tournament.
Tommies survive close one
It couldn't have been drawn up better. In the first game of her final AUS championships, St. Thomas Tommies captain Kayla Blackmore scored the game winning goal with just under two minutes left in the second period. The Tommies then shut down Moncton the rest of the way to take the 3-2 victory.
After the Tommies built a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes, Moncton came roaring back in the second. Elisa Savoie banged the puck home past a scrambling Julia Sharun around seven minutes into the second period. Despite the raucous Moncton players and bench following the game-tying goal, St. Thomas took over from there. The Tommies capitalized just over ten minutes later with Blackmore firing a shot from the slot that beat Jenna Van Belois.
For their part, the Tommies' defence took over after Blackmore's goal. They forced action to the outside and gave their veteran goaltender the clear lanes she needed to easily stop the shots from the point. While the game was tied, Moncton was applying pressure attempting to seize momentum but came up flat, unable to penetrate the St. Thomas zone, managing only six shots on goal in the third (and only 14 all game).
During the third period, Moncton had an opportunity to tie the game up on a 64-second five-on-three power play with Caley Steinert and Cassidy McTaggart both in the box. The Tommies were the more dangerous team during that time, however, as Blackmore and Kelty Apperson each got quality chances to force pressure back on Moncton.
Moncton will now face Saint Mary's on Friday at 3:00pm AT while St. Thomas will have a day off. The Tommies then play the Huskies Saturday, in what figures to be a de facto conference semifinal.
X marks the shots, but not that many goals
It wasn't pretty but it still counts.
Jenna Pitts scored two goals, the game-winner and an empty-netter, as the St. Francis Xavier X-Women escaped an opening night scare with a 3-1 win over Mount Allison. X won only by two despite outshooting the host Mounties 37 to 12 and scoring at least five goals against them in every regular-season game.
The first period saw the X-Women flexing their muscles as the early favourites in the tournament. The X-Women came out flying applying pressure to goaltender Megan Corley-Byrne and the Mounties. Schyler Campbell broke through for the X-Women just past the half-way make of the first period, firing the puck home off a face-off in the Mount Allison zone.
At the end of the first, Mt. A rookie Sarah Hubble was tossed into the boards, hard. Although it was initially thought that she might have a concussion from the hit, she returned for the start of the second period and managed a +1 in the game.
The Mounties turned the tide in the second period. Not to be denied, the X-Women still maintained a strong presence on the ice, however Mt. A did not allow the X-Women to enter their zone easily. The momentum reached a climax at the start of the third when Lindsay James found herself in the slot and fired the puck home to tie the game.
The Mounties and X-Women continued to battle all over the ice but an incident in the neutral zone ended up costing the Mounties. On what looked like a normal play, Mount Allison's Lauren Oickle was called for interference after fighting for the puck along the benches. The play appeared to be harmless with one of the linesmen falling down as well but at the end of the scrum, Oickle was the only one in the box.
Fourteen seconds into the power play, Jenna Pitts fired home a shot from the point past Corley-Byrne to put the X-Women up 2-1. The Mounties continued to work tirelessly on defence, blocking shots (in addition to the 37 SOG they allowed) and forechecking well to keep the X-Women out of their zone. However, time was not on the Mounties' side. Corley-Byrne was pulled late in the third period; then, with a clear shot at her second goal of the night, Pitts fired the puck into the empty net to end it.
The Mounties fight for their playoff lives Friday against UPEI. Anything less than a regulation win would officially eliminate Mount A, who finished second-last in the conference in the regular season. The X-Women will have a day off before returning to the ice on Saturday to face the Panthers, also at 6:00pm.