Charlottetown, PE – The StFX X-Women earned a dramatic 3-2 overtime victory in the U SPORTS quarterfinal game against the Montreal Carabins Thursday night. But the elation quickly turned to devastation upon hearing Hockey Canada's ruling later in the evening on the suspension of all hockey activities in the country.
Effective Friday, March 13, the Hockey Canada Board of Directors made the decision to cancel all Hockey Canada-sanctioned activities, including national championships, until further notice. This includes events, provincials, and tournaments that are already underway.
U SPORTS delegates met with all participating coaches following the StFX-Montreal game and informed them that both the 2020 U SPORTS Men's and Women's Hockey Championships were cancelled.
With the abrupt end to the X-Women's season, they closed out the year on a 17-game winning streak, dating back to AUS regular season play in late November.
In Thursday night's quarterfinal game, Kate Gotaas scored the overtime winner 3:32 into the extra period to lift the X-Women to victory. The goal came after the X-Women had tied it up with only 41 seconds left in the game thanks to a goal by Lydia Schurman.
The fifth year captain of the X-Women, Schurman has been the heart and soul both on and off the ice for the AUS champion X-Women.
She tied it up while the X-Women had an extra attacker on the ice after pulling netminder Jamie Johnson from the net with 1:25 left in the game. Defenseman Amy Graham worked the puck down the side boards to Lea MacLeod who dished it to Schurman out front and she beat Carabins goaltender Maude Trevisan from a shot in the slot.
The come-from-behind goal set up the overtime heroics for fellow senior forward Gotaas, who recently returned to the X-women line-up off an injury. With four on four skaters in the extra period, Graham picked up her second assist of the night on the game-winning marker. After bringing the puck down the right wing she found Gotaas open in front and she made no mistake on the one timer to send the StFX fans in the stands into a frenzy.
X-Women head coach Ben Berthiaume spoke to the 'never give up' attitude of his team, noting "It is how we have played all year, we've been down before and took some penalties we shouldn't have, and may have seemed tired at times but this team does not give up. They keep pushing and even with 40 seconds left in the game we still pushed through and got the goal to tie it up."
"At the end of the day they will fight and will fight right until the end and that's what we did tonight in a character win."
The game was a physical one throughout the entire duration. The X-Women were assessed seven minor penalties to the Carabins two and Montreal scored both their goals while on the man-advantage.
U SPORTS player of the year Tyra Meropoulis opened the scoring in the game midway through the first period, taking a pass from Hannah MacDonald then carrying the puck in and beating Trevisan with a high shot.
The StFX lead did not last long however as Annabel Faubert tied it up just over a minute later for the Carabins, sending a screened through while on the power play that beat U SPORTS all-rookie goalie Jamie Johnson in the X net.
The 1-1 tie held up after 20 minutes of play as each squad had six shots apiece in the first period.
The second period saw the X-Women penalty kill fight off a 5-on-3 power play for close to the full two minutes.
After another physical period and shots fairly even at 10-9 in favour of Montreal, the 1-1 score remained through a scoreless second.
The third period was fast-paced with few whistles and as in the previous two periods the X-Women found themselves on the penalty kill more often than they would like. The Carabins go-ahead goal came from Marie-Pier Dube at 6:42 after Johnson made an initial save but Dube found the puck and tucked it in behind her.
The X-Women did not give up and continued to press for the equalizer, generating several scoring chances in the final minutes of play until Schurman fittingly scored the game-tying goal.
Johnson was strong in the StFX net, turning aside 27 pucks and earning player of the game honours.
Berthiaume commented, "If you look at the second half of the season she's had, she just kept getting better and better every day. She is seeing a lot of pucks and was playing with a lot of confidence right now and as a goalie those are two big things."
The X-Women were set to meet the Canada West finalists Mount Royal Cougars in semifinal action prior to the championship being cancelled. The Cougars defeated Toronto 2-1 earlier in the day in another overtime game.
The two remaining quarterfinals – York vs McGill and Alberta vs UPEI – will not be played.
With the win the X-Women close out the season undefeated in AUS and U SPORTS playoffs, having gone 4-0 in the conference playoffs and 1-0 at the national level in what will go down in the history books as the season that may have been.
Courtesy Krista McKenna, StFX Athletics
This is how we will remember the end to our 2019-20 season - celebrating our 17th consecutive win in a come-from-behind overtime victory in the national quarterfinal! Congrats on an amazing season to our X-Women!! #hailandhealth #whiteandblue pic.twitter.com/mbtwYfC4oB— StFX Athletics (@StFXAthletics) March 13, 2020