Antigonish, NS – The StFX X-Women defeated the Saint Mary's Huskies 3-1 Friday evening in Game 1 of the Subway AUS semifinals at the Charles V. Keating Centre, taking a 1-0 series lead.
StFX goaltender Carley Molnar (London, ON) anchored the victory with 35 saves on the night, taking home Subway player of the game honours. The Huskies outshot the X-Women 36-16.
X-Women head coach Ben Berthiaume noted that his team played a very good first period, but after going up by two goals "in the second period we seemed to back off, then we didn't learn our lesson and continued to back off again in the third."
"The play of Carley Molnar was unbelievable tonight and that's how she's been this year, she backstopped us to this victory for sure."
Veteran fifth year forward Sarah Bujold (Riverview, NB) got the X-Women on the board 4:25 into the game as she capitalized on a loose rebound in front and tucked the puck between the legs of Rebecca Clark (Keswick, ON) in the Huskies net.
Freshman Lea MacLeod (Dartmouth, NS) gave the home team a 2-0 lead five minutes later when she scored off another shot that Clark would like to have back. While on a two-on-one with Kaya Brossard (North Vancouver, BC), MacLeod elected to shoot, and the puck once again beat Clark through the five-hole.
SMU's best scoring chance came when defenseman Taylor Gravelle (Lumsden, SK) rang one off the cross bar with five minutes left in the period.
The X-Women nearly made it a three-goal lead when Clark and her defenseman misplayed a puck inside the Huskies goal crease while on a power play and Kristen McKinley (Rothesay, NB) was on the doorstep but Clark was able to clear the puck right before it crossed the goal line.
Shots favoured the X-Women at 9-3 in the opening period.
The second period saw each team create scoring chances. AUS all-rookie forward Tyra Meropoulis (Edson, AB) broke in on Clark but was stopped. At the other end the Huskies generated some shots on the X net from in tight but Molnar was up for the challenge and kept the visitors off the scoresheet.
The Huskies continued to pressure and the physicality heated up in the middle period. Saint Mary's outshot the X-Women 13-4, though both teams were held scoreless and the 2-0 lead held up through 40 minutes of play.
Brooke Murphy (Balla Philip, NB) finally got the Huskies on the board four minutes into the third period. After Molnar stopped a Siobhan Birch (Mississauga, ON) shot from the slot, Murphy pounced on the rebound and deposited into the net.
The third period continued with fast-paced action as the Huskies pressured for the equalizer and the X-Women were anxious to hold onto the lead, playing defensively at times as Saint Mary's continued to outshoot them and Molnar continued to keep her team in the game.
She made a key save off a streaking Birch with just over four minutes left to play to preserve the lead.
The Huskies pulled Clark from the net with 1:34 left to play in favour of the extra attacker but Power intercepted a SMU pass and brought the puck up ice, connecting with Lydia Schurman (Summerside, PE) who tallied an empty netter just 10 seconds later.
Despite being outshot 20-3 in the final period, the X-Women were able to hang onto the win.
As the series now shifts to Halifax for Game 2, Coach Berthiaume notes, "We have to figure out how to establish that first period again and continue on, we can't sit back in the game. This is a team that we've seen when we've got up on them before they just won't quit, we have to understand that and keep pushing forward."
The puck drops for Game 2 at 6:30 pm on Sunday night at the Civic Centre. Game 3, if necessary, will be back in Antigonish on Tuesday evening.
Courtesy Krista McKenna, StFX Sports Information