X-Women defeated by Reds in AUS final

Photo credit Bryan Kennedy
Photo credit Bryan Kennedy

Antigonish, NS - The UNB Reds are the 2022 AUS champions – for the first time in their program history – and are heading to the U SPORTS national championship on the strength of a 4-0 victory in the second game of their AUS final 2-0 series sweep over the StFX X Women. 

UNB head coach Sarah Hilworth said the series was tough, giving credit to the X-Women roster and coaching staff as her young squad won their first ever conference championship banner in only their  fourth season.

"We knew we would have to give them everything we've got," she said after the game. "We knew they were offensively potent and we were going to have to weather the storm. The first period wasn't the start we wanted and in the second and third period we gave it our all and we ended up where we wanted to."

Hilworth said she has been telling the team things will be tough going forward.

"We've been preparing for this all year, it's our first time at the dance, so we're going in unknown but it's exciting," she said. "I'm so proud of this group and I can't wait to see what we can do."

The game started off slow with both teams getting chances, but both goalies came to play.

Despite out shooting UNB, STFX was unable to get on the board early and UNB broke the game open late in the second period.

While played with a four-on-three advantage, Talli Warren (Mundleville, NB) took a pass in front of the X net and banged home a second chance shot. Marley Van Den Oetelaar (Whitby, ON) and Payton Hargreaves (Whitby, ON) had the assists.

Shots at the end of the second period were 31-14 in favour of X but the scoreboard favoured the Reds at 1-0.

UNB capitalized again on the powerplay early in the third. With 3:11 gone in the final stanza, Lillian George (Nipissing First Nation) had the puck in front of the net before teammate Jana Headrick (Garden River First Nation) picked it up for a shot. George found the rebound and doubled the UNB lead.

Just over a minute later, Ashley Stratton (Mount Pearl, NL) stole the puck from an X defender trying to come out of their end, before passing off to Alayna Wagstaff (Olds, AB), who's low shot hit the back of the net.

At 13:13 of the third, UNB's Melanie Drost put the icing on the cake, picking up a long flip pass from Jenna MacLean (Wilcox, SK), breaking in alone, and roofing one.

Shots at the end of the game were 45-23 in favour of the X-Women, with UNB goalie Kendra Woodland (Kamloops, BC) earning the shut out. Woodland was also named Subway player of the game and most valuable player of the AUS playoffs.

"StFX was on us really quick and we knew it was going to be a tough game, we didn't come here thinking it was going to be easy," said Woodland after the game. "It was a massive team effort tonight and we're very glad we came out on top.

"At the moment, we're really excited, especially knowing where we came from in the first four years but the work starts tomorrow," Woodland added. "We're all really excited and ready to get going."

STFX goalie Jamie Johnson (Victoria, BC) had 19 stops on the night. Chloe Vukosa (Mississauga, ON) was the Subway player of the game for X-Women.

X-Women head coach Ben Berthiaume said his team gave a full 60 minute effort, and pointed to Woodland's work in the UNB net, noting she played very well. Berthiaume also noted there are lessons to be passed on to the newer players.

"That's a conversation we had," he noted. "Those younger players and we had a number of them, will look at this moment and not want to (repeat it). I look at a number of years ago when we lost to St. Thomas in the finals, and we came back hungrier. I think as a group we'll be more determined and motivated so we'll be ready to go next year."

The UNB Reds move to the eight-team U SPORTS national championship taking place next weekend, March 23-27 in Charlottetown. The Reds will join the host UPEI Panthers squad as AUS representatives.


Recap courtesy Matt Draper, STFX Athletics