(ANTIGONISH, N.S.) The Saint Mary's Huskies won their third consecutive AUS championship title with a 1-0 victory over the StFX X-Women Tuesday night in the deciding Game 3 of the Subway AUS championship series.
Backstopped by playoff most valuable player Rebecca Clark (Keswick, Ont.) who had 30 saves on the night, the Huskies shutout the first place X-Women to claim their seventh conference banner in team history.
A goal by Saint Mary's Subway player of the game Siobhan Birch (Mississauga, Ont.) in the second period was all the Huskies needed to hang on for the win in a close game that saw StFX hold a slight 30-28 shot advantage.
Following the game Clark commented, "It was an awesome game and so much fun to be in this situation. We've always had a good rivalry between us and X and we're ecstatic to come out with the win."
When asked about the streak of three consecutive conference title victories, the third year netminder noted "I think it's unreal. Chris [Larade] has done an amazing job and the girls are unbelievable, I couldn't have done it without them."
The top two teams in the conference played to a scoreless opening period as each team had 11 shots apiece. The Huskies were stopped on three power play opportunities.
X-Women forward Lydia Schurman (Summerside, P.E.I.) had a chance to break the goose egg five minutes into the second period with a breakaway attempt but was stopped by AUS first team all-star goalie Clark.
The Huskies lone goal was scored by the second year forward Birch who tipped in a shot up over the right shoulder of X netminder Carley Molnar (London, Ont.) that Mary Worndl (Kitchener, Ont.) had directed towards the front of the net. The goal came 14 minutes into the middle period.
Shots were again even in the second period as each squad had seven shots and the 1-0 lead held for the Huskies after 40 minutes.
The third period featured more fast paced, back and forth action, similar to the second, as the X-Women pressed for the tying goal and the Huskies were playing for the win.
The X-Women had a power play opportunity with nine minutes left and thought they had scored off a Santana Gravelle (Lumsden, Sask.) shot but Clark had closed the pads and kept the puck from crossing the goal line.
The Huskies then got called for another minor penalty but played a strong penalty kill and kept the home team off the scoreboard.
As X continued to press in the final minutes including pulling StFX Subway player of the game Molnar from the net in the final minute, Clark held strong in the Huskies goal to close out the win.
X-Women head coach Ben Berthiaume noted that it was a tight checking game and both teams came out playing hard. "We didn't get the bounces that we would have liked. The puck was lying there sometimes but we just weren't able to get it past her."
Both teams have clinched a spot at the U SPORTS national championship taking place next weekend, March 14-18 at Western University in London, Ont. as the AUS conference is awarded two berths in the eight-team event.
Looking ahead to the national championship, Clark is looking forward to the challenge, commenting "I think it's going to be really exciting, we have a great opportunity and hopefully we will come out strong and take first place, that's the goal."
Coach Berthiaume noted that "we'll take a couple days, get past this game and start looking forward to nationals. Once we find out who we play we'll get geared up and ready to play next week."
Seeding and schedule for the U SPORTS championship will be released on the weekend.
Source: StFX Sports Information