Kendra Woodland leads UNB Reds to first-ever AUS Championship

OTTAWA, ON – The sizzling-hot University of New Brunswick Reds toppled the StFX X-Women in Thursday’s AUS finals matchup. The best-of-three series began Tuesday with a game UNB won 3-2 in overtime. The teams then travelled to Antigonish, Nova Scotia, for a second fight.

The X-Women flew into game number two with a fire reminiscent of their play all year. StFX led U SPORTS in goals scored this year with 89. That worked out to 4.24 goals per game, a whole half goal per game more than the next closest team. The X-Women dominated play, and halfway through the first period were leading the shots 10-4.

Though UNB were slower and seemingly less productive, they were calculated and precise. The Reds systematically forced the X-Women wide and into poor shooting positions. When the speed of StFX was able to best the Reds, Kendra Woodland stood tall in the UNB net to keep the score 0-0.

Kendra Woodland (UNB Reds Athletics)

StFX continued their frantic pace in the second period extending their shots lead to 29-13. Frustrations at the scoreless game started to become evident late in the period as the teams became increasingly physical. A Jenna Maclean slew foot gave StFX a powerplay to the crowd’s delight, but to their dismay, the advantage was cut short as X-Woman Abby Lewis laid a heavy hit causing a 4-on-4. The teams continued to hack and hit each other without much protest from the referees until Kamdyn Switzer swung her stick at the UNB goalie. Her two-minute penalty meant UNB would play the last minute of the period with a 4-on-3 advantage.

StFX won the defensive zone faceoff, but hustle from Red Lillian George won back the puck. UNB started a cycle, and George ended up with the puck again behind the net. She sent it to Payton Hargreaves, who returned it to George. George centred for Talli Warren, and the StFX defender could do nothing but hook Warren as she put the puck into the net.

The final period started much like the others. UNB’s shots were few, and StFX used their pace to pepper the Reds net. A StFX penalty gave UNB another advantage, and they capitalized when George hacked in a scrappy goal down low. Just a minute later, StFX turned over the puck in their end, and Ashley Stratton quickly slid the puck to Alayna Wagstaff, whose one-timer made it through.

Down three with 15 to play, shoulders were slumped on the StFX bench, and the crowd quiet. The X-Women continued their pace putting another 11 shots on net before the end of the game; however, they posed no challenge for UNB goaltender Woodland.

Late in the game, the Reds added one more when Maclean sent a pass 50 feet along the ice that went nearly as high and landed on the stick of Melanie Drost. In alone, Drost put a hard shot into the net for a fourth and final UNB goal.

(UNB Reds Athletics)

When the buzzer sounded, the UNB players poured over the boards with the confetti of sticks and gloves raining down. The UNB Reds are the 2021-22 AUS women’s hockey champions for the first time.

The team will travel to the U Sports championships in PEI to compete for the Golden Path Trophy. They will take the momentum of a strong defensive performance into a tournament with even tougher competition. The national tournament begins March 24.

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