By Thomas Becker
Miranda Hatt couldn't contain her excitement as she jumped into her teammates arms after putting away Saint Mary's third goal of the afternoon.
The goal sealed a 3-1 win over the UPEI Panthers and earned them a first-round bye.
"I was really nervous on the ice, I'm not going to lie," Hatt said. "It just felt good because we knew we got it then. I never celebrated harder."
The sophomore forward scored twice in the win, while teammate Brooke Murphy put away the game-winner. Shae Demale assisted on all three goals.
"We feel pretty good right now. It's definitely a relief to clinch," Hatt said. "I really didn't want to play in the first round, I just wanted that break."
For UPEI (19-7-1), it was missed opportunity to bypass a round they've never gotten past. Still, Panthers head coach Bruce Donaldson was proud with the way his team competed.
"It was a really, really good hockey game. That was a nationals level hockey game," he said. "I thought we competed very well."
From the opening puck drop, both teams battled hard for the few chances that were there. Each team hit iron in the period and were held scoreless after 20 minutes of action.
The Panthers had a great chance 8:35 into the second when Maria Clinton skated in from the neutral zone and passed it off to Sydney Lyndon for the tip-in, but her attempt was denied by goaltender Rebecca Clark, who recovered for the nice sliding save. Clark turned aside 22 shots and was named the Subway Player of the Game.
"I felt pretty calm and cool," Clark said. "It was a really good game. I was expecting UPEI to put up a good fight and they did."
The Huskies (21-5-1) broke the tie three minutes later when Hatt took the tight angle and fired a backhand just under the crossbar for the unlikely goal. That lead was short lived as Panthers' captain Rachel Colle snuck a wraparound past Clark at 13:16 to tie it up.
Saint Mary's reclaimed the lead two-and-a- half minutes into the third, when Demale sent a pass from behind the net in front to Murphy who buried the power play marker to make it 2-1.
With under a minute remaining in the game, Demale fired a shot off goaltender Camille Scherger, leading to a rebound in front for Hatt who easily put it away to secure the 3-1 win and the bye.
The Panthers return to the ice Feb. 9 when they host the defending champion St. Thomas Tommies.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan