(HALIFAX, N.S.) The Saint Mary's Huskies, AUS conference champions in three of the past four seasons, topped the first-ever AUS women's hockey coaches' pre-season poll.
The poll results were announced Tuesday ahead of Wednesday's AUS regular season opener between the Huskies and the Dalhousie Tigers in Halifax.
This marks the first year for the AUS women's hockey pre-season coaches' poll, which was voted on by the league's eight head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
Saint Mary's, who captured three AUS titles from 2015-16 to 2017-18, received all seven first-place votes from the conference head coaches for a total of 49 points in the voting.
The Huskies finished the 2018-19 regular season in third place with 18 wins, nine losses and one OT/SO loss for 37 points. Saint Mary's defeated Moncton in quarter-final play before falling to StFX in two straight games in the AUS semifinals.
SMU's first-place vote went to the StFX X-Women, who finished second in the coaches' poll with 43 points. StFX also finished last season with an 18-9-1 record but finished ahead of the Huskies in the standings thanks to their record in head-to-head play versus Saint Mary's.
StFX advanced to the AUS final last year but lost a close best-of-three final to the St. Thomas Tommies in three games. StFX's last Atlantic conference championship came in 2014-15.
The UNB Reds round out the top three vote-getters in the pre-season poll with 33 points.
The Reds, who returned to the AUS women's hockey league last season, posted a 13-11-4 record to qualify for the postseason where they went on to defeat the UPEI Panthers in quarterfinal action before falling to their crosstown rival St. Thomas Tommies in semi-final play.
This year's AUS playoff format will once again feature a pair of best-of-three quarter-final series, followed by two best-of-three semifinals and a best-of-three final round.
The 2020 U SPORTS Women's Hockey Championship will be hosted by UPEI for the second consecutive year in Charlottetown, P.E.I., March 12-15.
As hosts, the Panthers receive an automatic berth in the national championship.
A second Atlantic conference berth will be awarded to the AUS champion. Should UPEI claim the conference title, the second berth will be awarded to the AUS runner-up.
2019 AUS WOMEN'S HOCKEY PRE-SEASON COACHES POLL
(First-place votes in parentheses):
1. Saint Mary's (7), 49 pts.
2. StFX (1), 43 pts.
3. UNB, 33 pts.
4. St. Thomas, 29 pts.
5. UPEI, 28 pts.
6. Moncton, 22 pts.
T7. Dalhousie, 10 pts.
T7. Mount Allison, 10 pts.
NOTE: Coaches ranked all opponents 1-7. First-place votes worth 7 pts., second-place worth 6 pts. etc.
The 2019 season opens Wednesday night with the Dalhousie Tigers hosting the Saint Mary's Huskies in a 7 p.m. start.
All eight AUS teams will see action this weekend, with all games available live on AUStv at www.AUStv.ca.
For a complete look at the 2019 AUS women's hockey schedule, click here.