SACKVILLE, N.B. — Saturday's results saw Saint Mary's and St. Francis Xavier punch their tickets to Sunday's championship final.
Cooke-ing up a win
There are moments in a championship tournament when one player rises to the occasion. Saturday night, that player was Sienna Cooke.
Described by her head coach Chris Larade as a "diamond in the rough that landed in our laps," Cooke stopped 36 shots in a 3-1 victory over the St. Thomas Tommies.
The game started off with a bang as Rebecca Mosher and the Huskies crashed the net 20 seconds into the game. With the ice still fresh, Mosher fired a shot past a stunned Julia Sharun.
While there was to be no scoring until the start of the third period, the Huskies and Tommies traded chances. An issue for the Huskies was staying out of the penalty box — they accumulated 22 penalty minutes throughout the game. After first-year forward Brianna Soper put the Huskies up by two, the Huskies took four minors including two five-on-threes as Mosher was called for a double minor for contact to the head. Maggie Poliseno and Chelsea Osbaldeston took the other penalties for Saint Mary's. Somehow, the Tommies failed to score throughout this stretch.
Jordan Miller was the first and last Tommie to solve Cooke as she scored with just over two minutes left in the game. The Tommies made a last stand pulling Sharun in an attempt to tie the game up but Carly Gray scored into the empty net.
After the game, Soper spoke about the team's focus while shorthanded. "We do have an excellent penalty kill so we're just trying to stay focused and maintain our own end."
X-Women silence Panthers
Throughout the weekend, the UPEI Panthers' presence was established in the Tantramar Civic Centre thanks to the presence of several cowbells.
Unfortunately for them, the bells were silenced Saturday evening as the St. Francis Xavier X-Women pulled out a last second 3-2 win. The win also served as a means of revenge for the X-Women who fell victim to the same Panthers team in last year's semi-final.
The Panthers came into the game with one requirement: win by two or more goals. The task wouldn't be easy as they had to face X-Women goaltender Kristy Garrow. Garrow led the league this year with a 0.80 goals against average and .950 save percentage. After losing to Mt. A Friday, Marie Soleil Deschenes was replaced with Kristy Dobson in net for UPEI.
The Panthers came out flying just like the Huskies, desperate to throw Garrow off her game. Just two minutes into the game, they succeeded. With X-Women captain Jenna Downey in the box serving an interference penalty, Kiana Strand fired the puck past Garrow to put the Panthers up by one.
Thirteen minutes later, Samantha Sweet got the Panthers to the threshold for goal differential as she slipped the puck past Garrow. After that goal, Garrow settled down and the always-dangerous X-Women offence got to work. With Lindsay Oakes in the box on a hooking call, Jenna Pitts continued her fantastic tournament, scoring with just over a minute and a half left in the first frame.
The second period featured a single goal but it was a highlight for the entire season. 2013 AUS MVP Alex Normore broke down the wing on a partial breakaway, wound up and fired a shot through the five hole of Dobson.
The Panthers and X-Women played to a stalemate until the final moments of the third period. Needing to win by two goals with the game tied, UPEI pulled Dobson in favour of an extra attacker, but they wouldn't score. And with two seconds left, Daniela Falconio tallied the empty-netter, giving the X-Women the victory on top of their ticket to Sunday's final.
After the game Normore noted that the team didn't change their approach in the final minutes as the Panthers looked for the extra goals. "We weren't trying to play overly defensive or anything, we just wanted to win that game."
She also commented, "All we had in our mind was to win that game."
The stage is now set. The St. Francis Xavier X-Women will face the Saint Mary's Huskies Sunday afternoon in Sackville. The game will see the depth of the X-Women pitted against first-year standout goaltender Cooke. Puck drop is at 4:00pm AT.