(Halifax N.S.) The Saint Mary's Huskies picked up a 3-2 victory over the StFX X-Women in game one of the best of three Subway AUS Women's Hockey Championship Final at Alumni Arena.
"I thought we were pretty good," said Huskies head coach Chris Larade. "Our first five minutes were only so-so and maybe a three to five minute span in the second and third where we probably weren't where we wanted to be but otherwise I thought we handled the moment pretty good."
"We just kept things simple. We wanted to make sure we played as much five-on-five as possible. I think our power-play left a little bit to be desired but our five-on-five, which is our strength, was our strength today."
Rebecca Clark (Keswick, ON) made 15 saves in the win.
Nicole Halladay (Smith Falls, ON) and Jenna MacDonald (Osgoode, ON) responded with third period markers for the X-Women.
Ariana Orasanin (Ancaster, ON) made 22 saves in the loss.
Kara Power (New Glasgow, NS) was given a game misconduct for hitting from behind with 1:15 left in the first. Leaving the X-Women short a third of their high-powered first line and without the third highest scoring player in the AUS regular season for the rest of the game.
Birch opened the scoring 5:52 into the second. She got the puck down low and attempted a wraparound. Off the rebound the puck stayed loose in pile up outside the crease.
Polak made it 2-0 Huskies at the 14:33 mark of the second. An X-Women player tried to make a pass back in the Huskies zone and it ricocheted to Breanna Lanceleve (Middle Sackville NS) in the neutral zone.
Lanceleve worked in on the right wing and cut across the slot where she dropped for Polak who ripped a wrister blocker side.
Birch picked up her second 7:18 into the third. The Huskies got the puck deep in the X-Women zone and Polak got in hard on the fore-check in the left corner. Blanche jumped into the battle, which had moved up the wall and sent it down low.
Birch picked it up in behind the net, took it out front and jammed it home five-hole for what turned out to be the game winner.
Halladay brought the X-Women back within two on the power-play with 6:24 left in the third. Lydia Schurman (Summerside PE) got the puck in the right corner in the Huskies zone.
She sent it back to Lindsey Donovan (Miramichi NB) on the point. Donovan worked towards the centre of the ice and put a pass right in Halladay's wheelhouse and Halladay hammered a one-timer for the goal.
MacDonald made it a one-goal game with a shorthanded marker with 48-seconds left in the third. Heather Tillsley (Aurora ON) played it short off the wall to Lisa Downey (Stratford ON) just outside the Huskies blue line and she sent it in deep.
MacDonald got in on the puck in behind the Huskies net and scored on a wraparound.
The X-Women got the goalie out for the extra attacker with 22-seconds left but could not generate any pressure.
The X-Women were one for three on the power-play, while the Huskies were zero for seven.
Shots were 25-17 in favour of the Huskies.
"In my mind I think it's going to take our best game of the year," said Larade of going into Antigonish on Sunday. "We've got to make sure we don't change the way we play because [the X-Women] are going to have their backs up against the wall and it's going to be tough."
The two teams will battle in game two in Antigonish N.S. on Sunday, March 5. If necessary game three will be Tuesday, March 7 in Halifax N.S.
By Cam Honey-Webb
Photo Jenn Samson