By Thomas Becker
The St. FX X-Women denied the UPEI Panthers' chance at clinching home ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs after a hard fought 2-1 win Sunday afternoon.
Special teams was a big factor in the outcome and led to St. FX's two goals, scored by Santana Gravelle and Tyra Meropoulis.
Summerside native and X-Women alternate captain, Lydia Schurman was named Subway Player of the Game for her beautiful assist on the winning goal late in the first period and her calming presence as a leader.
The fourth-year forward said she always enjoys coming back home to take on the Panthers.
"I love coming back and playing in front of family and friends, it gives me a bit of an edge," Schurman said.
Schurman and her X-Women (18-7-3) had the edge on special teams in the first period. After UPEI squandered a pair of power plays, St. FX made them pay. They connected on both their power plays with the first coming at 16:36, when Gravelle wired a wrist shot from the left circle in the top right corner. Less than two minutes later, Schurman dropped the puck off for Meropoulis, who fired it from the slot to give the visitors a 2-0 advantage.
Schurman said the team feeds off their penalty kill and builds momentum when they're able stop the opponent from scoring.
"When we're down a man and can get past those penalties without giving up a goal, I think that's when we really turn it on."
The Panthers (14-13-1) would get a goal back seven minutes into the second. On an odd-man rush, Rachel Colle fired a shot off goaltender Carley Molnar, gathered her own rebound and buried the second attempt.
UPEI continued to press late in the third, searching for that equalizer, but Molnar was steady between the pipes down the stretch and preserved the 2-1 win. She finished with 23 saves on the afternoon.
Schurman is hoping to return to the Island once more this season, as St. FX looks to take the AUS crown and earn their place at the U Sports National Championships.
"To play for a national title at home would be dream," she said.
The Panthers, meanwhile, will take on the UNB Reds in the quarter-finals beginning Feb. 14 in Fredericton.