After the long-awaited return for Atlantic University Sport athletics, the Tommies were back in action against the Saint Mary’s Huskies on Feb. 20 at home. The Grant Harvey Centre welcomed fans to an afternoon of hockey between rivals.
Before the game, Peter Murphy, the Tommies head coach, said he “expected rust” in their return to play last weekend versus the University of New Brunswick Reds. Although he was pleasantly surprised when they pushed the Reds to a shootout where they squeezed out a 4-3 win.
St. Thomas University had the upper hand on the Huskies before the game even started as this was the Huskies’ first AUS game since Nov. 27 where they lost 4-2 in a battle against University of Prince Edward Island.
When the first period started, the Huskies began by controlling the play and getting 14 shots on Katie Sweeney who was playing her first regular-season game.
Before the game, Murphy, who’s in his 20th season with the team, told his players the powerplay needs some improvement.
“We had a powerplay in the second period that looked good with some of the things that we’ve been working on,” he said. “That’s all you’re looking for, is those things [to be] implemented.”
With two powerplays in the first period and 18 seconds of five players against three, the Tommies couldn’t capitalize as Dagny Hudspeth made five stops in the first period. STU didn’t generate much offence as the Huskies covered the neutral zone.
With 1:13 left in the opening frame, Saint Mary’s Taylor Keeping opened the scoring on a play resulting in the STU defender knocking the puck in the net after four players crashed the crease.
During the second period, there were six penalties. Four penalties for the Tommies and two for the Huskies and both teams couldn’t capitalize on the player advantages.
The Huskies took a 2-0 lead off of a passing play that resulted in miss coverage for STU. Kara MacLean was left all alone in front after she corralled a pass from the boards and deked Sweeney out of position. That was all Sweeney allowed as she stopped 12 shots in the second frame.
“[Sweeney] played great,” said Murphy. “She did a phenomenal job for us and I think it’s a great game for her to build on moving forward.”
STU brought it back later in the period when Aislynn Byers sent a shot towards the net, which was tipped onto Hudspeth’s pads and went onto the stick of Megan Pardy who slammed it into the open cage. Hudspeth’s momentum carried her right and she was unable to get the rebound.
Even though they scored in the second period, STU was outplayed by the Huskies as their defence and offence didn’t allow for the Tommies to gain any flow between zones.
As the third period started, the Huskies piled up the shots on Sweeney, and in turn, forced the Tommies to the outside to dispel any flow. The period continued with weak outlet passes and missed opportunities for the Tommies as Sweeney did everything she could to keep it a one-goal game.
In the final moments, the Tommies took a penalty and the Huskies went to the powerplay with less than four minutes to play, but were unsuccessful because of the penalty kill.
“We were in the box sometimes and had to deal with it and the girls just did great,” said Murphy.
The Tommies pulled their goalie and tried to score the equalizer with their last opportunity, but the Huskies player got in the way of every shot directed towards the net.
The Huskies swarmed Hudspeth as their goalie collected her 10th win of the year when the final horn sounded. The Tommies celebrated Sweeney after stopping 40 shots.
“It was definitely worth the wait because it was such a great game playing a great team,” said Sweeney. “I’m glad I got this opportunity to play.”
The Tommies are in action again on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. where they take on St. Francis Xavier University and Université de Moncton.