The defending AUS champions didn’t make it easy for their cross-campus rivals, the University of New Brunswick Reds, in game three of the best-of-3 quarterfinal series. The winner of this game would move on to the semifinals against the the Saint Mary’s University Huskies.
The Reds led 1-0 with five minutes remaining in the fast-paced game. The Tommies took risks to keep the puck in their offensive and generated multiple scoring chances but weren’t able to find any luck until the referee raised an arm to signal a penalty on the Reds. It was a sign of hope for the Tommies.
Head coach Peter Murphy opted to keep his goaltender Caroline Pietroski on the ice during the power play, keeping his team’s advantage at 5-on-4.
“I think [a sixth player] would have blocked things up more,” Murphy said of his choice.
“We’ve been in the zone keeping full possession … so that’s where we were.”
The Tommies fired shots all over UNB, as the puck hit bodies and found its way in front of the net with sticks hacking at it until the Reds goaltender was able to kick it away. The Tommies’ season was hanging by a thread.
As soon as the power play ended, Pietroski rushed to the bench to give STU an extra attacker. It wouldn’t be enough.
The Reds trapped the puck along the boards near centre ice, attracting every player on the ice towards it, with Tommies trying to free it loose while the Reds held on and watched the time run out. As the final buzzer rang, the Reds celebrated their victory, as the Tommies skated off the ice one last time.
Tommies’ captain Emily Oleksuk was emotional after her final game as a Tommie.
“It’s a bittersweet experience, [playing] my last game. But I’m super grateful.”
The Reds won the first game of the series 2-1, while the Tommies took game two in a dramatic fashion, winning 2-1 in double-overtime. The teams had each beat each other twice in four regular season matches.
“These games are always tight,” Oleksuk said.
“[It’s a] tough one to swallow but was definitely some good hockey.”
The Tommies found their chances early in the game, hitting the post just five minutes into the game, as the puck hovered over the goal line for a split second. With just over a minute left in the first period, UNB passed the puck across the net and slapped it past Pietroski for the only goal of the game.
Mariah Carey would take a wrist shot up close with six minutes left in the second period, only to hit the shoulder of the Reds’ goalie. STU would get a four-minute power play after a contact to the head penalty but were unable to capitalize.
Pietroski made 19 saves.
“It’s difficult when your season comes to an end,” Murphy said.
“They really do love each other.”
Oleksuk said she’s proud of the way her team performed all season.
“I’m really proud of my journey and my team’s journey,” she said.
“We have built an incredible culture and it’s something that will leave a legacy forever.”