The St. Thomas University women’s hockey team won their first Atlantic University Sport championship title in the program’s history. For fifth-year student and goalie, Abby Clarke, the win has been a long time coming.
“I think for a lot of us, it really is the best way to leave the Grant Harvey Centre,” said Clarke
“Especially for me and the six other girls that are in their fifth year, it was the best way to leave the Grant Harvey one last time.”
The Tommies played a best-of-three series against St. Francis Xavier University during the spring reading week.
The X-Women won the first game 4-0 on March 3 at the Grant Harvey Centre in Fredericton. It was a rough game with a total of seven penalties in the first period alone. StFX capitalized on their power plays in the first and second period, allowing them to score two points and have the lead going into the third. The X-Women continued to dominate and scored another two goals in the final period, giving them the victory over the Tommies.
The second game was played at StFX on March 5 where the Tommies fought hard to win 4-3 and stay alive. Four goals in total were scored by both teams in the first period, tying it 2-2. The X-Women gained a lead in the second period with a goal, but the Tommies came back in the third and scored two more goals, giving them the win.
The win forced a third and final game back at the Grant Harvey Centre. In a tense game on March 7, the Tommies won the championship 2-1.
For head coach Peter Murphy, the win was 17 years in the making. This is his first AUS championship as a head coach.
The day before the game, the team had to modify their practice because there was a power outage at the Grant Harvey Centre. They also had to make some adjustments the day of the game because some players were sick and couldn’t play. But Murphy was impressed with the team and how they handled the adjustments.
He was especially proud of how some of the offensive players handled being subbed out for defence in the third period.
“[Lauren Henman] was replaced by defensive player and she went out and [Mariah Carey] took her spot,” said Murphy.
“[Henman] was the first one saying, ‘OK, let’s go. You’re doing it.'”
Murphy believes going into the previous game knowing the team had to win or be eliminated gave them an advantage over StFX.
The first period featured strong shots and saves by both teams with StFX leading in shots 10 to nine, but neither team could get one past the goalies, keeping the game scoreless by the end of the period.
The second period started with the X-Women scoring on a power play four minutes in, giving them a 1-0 lead.
The Tommies answered with a goal of their own four minutes later by Olivia Reid, tying up the game 1-1.
Clarke made some good saves, keeping the X-Women from scoring another goal and leaving the game tied at the end of the period.
The Tommies started the third period with Lauren Legault scoring five minutes in and giving them a 2-1 lead.
Clarke’s saves continued with the X-Women fighting hard to tie up the game. StFX pulled their goalie with a minute and a half left in the game but couldn’t score, giving the Tommies a 2-1 win.
Clarke said the team was nervous going into the final game.
“It was a good nervous and we turned it into good energy,” said Clarke.
“We just have fun, and at the end of the day [we] just remember that it’s a hockey game … we’ve played the game 1,000 times before. [We] just remember to have fun and enjoy it, enjoy every minute of it.”
Despite the nerves, Clarke was impressed with her fellow teammates and how they played.
“[StFX] came out of a pretty hard third period, especially after we scored that goal. But in those times, you’ve got to trust yourself and trust that your teammates are going to do their job,” said Clarke.
“And I had all my belief in them and that’s what kept me going.”
Fifth-year player Taylor Cook said finally winning the championship title was a great experience.
“There’s no better feeling in the world … It’s surreal,” said Cook.
“Ever since my first year, this is the one thing we have been chasing. We came close in my second year but we fell a bit short and we’ve always made a pretty good show in playoffs ever since, but to not only win AUS but to win it at home in front of all of our fans was a pretty great feeling.”
When Clarke started playing for the Tommies, she never expected to win an AUS championship.
“I love the girls that I was with and it’s amazing to win a championship but to win it with them and play with them, this is the best thing of all,” said Clarke.
“Five years ago, I would have never dreamed this would have ever happened. But I knew I was going to make some life long friendships and that’s the best thing that came out of this.”
The women’s hockey team is heading to nationals at the University of Prince Edward Island from March 14 to 17.
With files from Cassidy Chisholm