(Halifax, NS) The AUS women's hockey game between the Saint Mary's Huskies and the St. Thomas Tommies, offered a variety of excitement as STU, the defending AUS champions, blanked Saint Mary's 3-0 at the Dauphinee Centre in Halifax, to give the Huskies their first loss of the year.
The teams pushed the definition of non-contact hockey through 60 minutes of fast-paced action, complete with stonewall goaltending, beautiful playmaking and lots of penalty minutes.
Saint Mary's started the game, the sharper team. Their possessions were longer and more unified. St. Thomas countered with hard-nosed, physical defence and kept most Saint Mary's shots to the outside from weaker angles. Their offence was more subdued, relying on individual rushes and transition breakouts. Goaltender Caroline Pietroski (Etobicoke, ON) was key to the Tommies defensive success, staving off 16 shots in the first 20 minutes.
In the 2nd period, Saint Mary's took three penalties early on, including a double minor to Shaae Demale (Red Deer, AB) that gave the Tommies a two-woman advantage for a full two minutes. The Tommies power play unit kept the puck moving around the offensive zone, but were unable to create many quality scoring chances and the game remained goalless.
The period became more physical as it progressed, with more borderline checking and stick work. The roughness culminated at the 14-minute mark when Huskies forward Miranda Hart (Eastern Passage, NS) laid a dangerous hit to the head of Megan Pardy (Courtice, ON) along the boards. Pardy lay on the ice for close to two minutes, but skated off under her own power. She would not return and Hart received 5 minutes and a game misconduct for the play.
Despite the Huskies' 13 penalty minutes in the period, St. Thomas were unable to capitalize and the game stood scoreless after 40.
In the 3rd, the pace quickened and the bumpiness faded as both teams pushed for the first goal. At each end, the goaltenders were tested multiple times in close and both continued to frustrate their opponents' forwards.
Pressure mounted from both sides and the scoreless streak seemed ready to snap when St. Thomas 4th year took an untimely tripping penalty with 14 minutes remaining. The potent Saint Mary's power play got to work firing everything they could toward the Tommies' net for the first minute of the advantage. Then, SMU's, Caleigh Meraw (Red Deer, AB) lost control of the puck at the high point and St. Thomas forward Mariah Carey (Avonport, NS) pounced.
She broke away from her zone with no one in front of her but the goaltender. As she flew passed the top of the left circle, she snapped a rocket past Pietroski into the top of the net.
Just over ten minutes later, another Huskies turnover, this one on a cough up near their own blue line, led to another open break for the Tommies. They failed to score on the initial shot, but the play continued in the Saint Mary's end and Olivia Reid (Aurora, ON) found Alex Woods (Courtice, ON) near the top of the right circle for an open shot. She fired a slapper that deflected off a defender and into the back of the net to make it 2-0.
Saint Mary's pushed hard as time became a rarer commodity, but Olivia Reid snuffed out any chance of a comeback with an empty netter in the final minute, her second point of the night. Pietroski held on to the shutout, earning player-of-the-game honours, and the Tommies handed the Huskies their first loss of the season with a 3-0 victory.
St. Thomas is now 2-4 on the year, while Saint Mary's remains at the top of the league with a 5-1 record.
By Ethan Lycan-Lang, SMU Communications
Photo Nick Pearce