The schedule for the next AUS season came out earlier this week, with the puck set to drop on October 19. The X-Women will be looking to repeat their success from the 2012-13 year that saw them capture the AUS championship and a bronze medal at the CIS level.
The big change to note right off the bat is the adoption of a new playoff format this year. The format, changed from the previous 'Final 6' setup, will see a best-of-three series between the third- and sixth-, and fourth- and fifth-seeded teams. The top two seeds will earn a bye to the semifinals where they will play the winner of each matchup.
With the schedule now set, let's take a look at each team and how their season could play out.
St. Francis Xavier X-Women
Last season: 23-1-0 (AUS champions)
How we'll remember 2012-13: There are many avenues to choose from. 80 goals in 24 games, an 18-game regular season win streak. Their one loss came to Saint Mary's but that was the only blemish on their season.
Early test: Even for a fresh team, playing games on back-to-back days can be rough. The X-Women will have to do that when they face Saint Mary's on a Saturday afternoon before making the long trip to Moncton for an afternoon game on Sunday early in the season.
Analysis: Things will be pretty easy for the X-Women in the first half. Their furthest trip, to Fredericton, will happen for the first time on November 9 before they return to face the Mounties in Sackville the following day. They open the season with two games at home and won't have to make any long trips until the second weekend of the season.
Saint Mary's Huskies
Last season: 12-8-4 (AUS runner-ups)
How we'll remember 2012-13: On the play of several strong rookies, a good core of veterans including Rebecca Mosher, and new head coach Chris Larade, the Huskies surprised everyone and managed to finish third in the regular season standings before making it to the championship game.
Early test: The Huskies players will have October 26 circled on their calendars. That date will mark the first meeting between the Huskies and the X-Women since both teams met in the conference championship back in February. The match will also serve as the Huskies' home opener, adding extra incentive to both teams to bring their best effort to this game.
Analysis: The first two months of their season will be critical to the team, determining if they can build upon their magical run last year to the final. The team only has three sets of back-to-back games in the first half of the season including two sets of them on the road so those quick turnarounds will provide some insight into the team's progress from last year.
St. Thomas Tommies
Last season: 16-7-1 (second in regular season)
How we'll remember 2012-13: St. Thomas started fast out of the gate. The Tommies only lost two games before November 17 — both to the X-Women. They took the regular season series against the Huskies but couldn't solve Sienna Cooke in the playoffs.
Early test: The first two weekends of the season will be tough for the Tommies. They face a pair of back-to-back games in the first two weekends of the season. They'll also have a quick turnaround in their first two games of the season playing on a Saturday evening in Halifax before travelling to Antigonish for a Sunday afternoon matchup.
Analysis: The Tommies play fourteen games in the first half of the season. This comes in the form of seven sets of back-to-back games. They'll have a rough go of it to start but will enjoy a second half that only features one set of games on back-to-back days, in early January. They will also represent the AUS as hosts of the CIS women's hockey championship so the team will have that to look forward to come March, as well as having a berth in their back pockets should they stumble.
Last season: 13-10-1 (fourth in regular season standings)
How we'll remember 2012-13: UPEI won the Meh Award of the Year. They hovered around the middle of the standings, losing some weeks, winning the next. They finished with a record over .500 but that was about it.
Early test: The Panthers' early test will come towards the end of November when they play four games in nine days. Facing St. Thomas twice, Moncton once and Saint Mary's a single time, it will be a good test for a team that came off as average last season to show that they can handle playing that number of important games within a short time-frame.
Analysis: The team's efforts in net were done by committee last season so it'll be interesting to see if the teams hands the full-time duties over to second-year Marie-Soleil Deschenes or continues a revolving door.
Moncton Aigles Bleues
Last season: 11-11-2 (fifth in regular season)
How we'll remember 2012-13: Their captain being ejected in their final game of the playoffs, along with several other players. Other than that black-eye on their season, Moncton continued to enjoy success posting a record of .500 or better for the seventh straight year — or longer, as the AUS/records only go back to the 2006-07 season.
Early test: Moncton will play seven games at home, including three in October, to start the season. They'll need to take advantage of these home dates early on to ensure a favourable playoff matchup at the end of the season.
Analysis: Moncton doesn't have to leave New Brunswick until the start of November and only have to travel as far away as Sackville in October. The first month should provide the team with some time to adapt themselves to the rest of the league without having to leave their comfort zone.
Mt. Allison Mounties
Last season: 7-13-4 (sixth in regular season)
How we'll remember 2012-13: A highly-touted team from 2011-12 having the wheels off, and avoiding last place only due to the Dalhousie Tigers losing half a season. They were also quickly dismantled by the X-Women in the opening game of the AUS Women's Hockey Championships, an event they hosted.
Early test: The Mounties will only play once at home in October but will also enjoy a four-game home stand to begin November. It'll be important for the team to balance both of these different experiences in order to gauge their success for the rest of the season.
Analysis: 2012-13 was a wreck that I'm sure most in Sackville would like to forget. The team only really won six games thanks to Dalhousie's suspension. Zach Ball and the Mounties will have a tall task ahead of them this coming year.
Last season: 2-20-2 (last place, with the second half of the season forfeited)
How we'll remember 2012-13: This.
Early test: Dalhousie will open the season on the road against the X-Women and follow that up by hosting the Tommies the day after. It will be early in the season at that point but last year's top two contenders in the league will be a prime test regardless of the players lost due to graduation.
Analysis: Before their season was wiped out, the Tigers actually had something going. Okay, sure, they were 2-10 before the holiday break but a few of those games were in overtime and of those twelve games, six were decided by a single goal.