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Quest for the best has started in AUS

St. Thomas Athletics/SRM Photography - Springdale netminder Abby Clarke is backstopping the St. Thomas Tommies, the top-ranked women’s hockey team in the AUS and ranked fourth in the country.
St. Thomas Athletics/SRM Photography - Springdale netminder Abby Clarke is backstopping the St. Thomas Tommies, the top-ranked women’s hockey team in the AUS and ranked fourth in the country. - Contributed

Atlantic university hockey playoffs under way, and plenty from this province are involved

There are still almost two months left in professional regular-season schedules, and the major junior and junior A circuits don’t start their playoffs until next month, but there are about a dozen Newfoundlanders and Labradorians currently involved in post-season hockey play.

They’re with teams in the Atlantic University Sport men’s and women’s conferences, which feature semifinal games this weekend.

That includes an all-Fredericton matchup beginning tonight, one between schools that basically share the same campus. It sees the St. Thomas Tommies, the No. 1 seed in the conference, and No. 4 in the nation, taking on the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds.

Heather Richards of St. Anthony is the Mount Allison Mounties’ team captain.
Heather Richards of St. Anthony is the Mount Allison Mounties’ team captain.

The Tommies (22-5-1) are led by senior netminder Abby Clarke of Springdale, named to the AUS second all-star earlier this week, while the Reds’ lineup includes forward Ashley Stratton of Mount Pearl, who has had a solid rookie season with 15 points in 28 games.

The other best-of-three AUS women’s hockey semifinal, which got underway Friday in Antigonish, N.S., has the X-Women, with Dunville’s Brooke Noseworthy on the roster, taking on the visiting Saint Mary’s Huskies, who have Katie Peddle of Labrador City and Laura Horwood of Grand Falls-Windsor.

Clarke was one of three Newfoundland female players receiving AUS honours this week. Forward Jolena Gillard of Deer Lake, who put up 15 points for the UPEI Panthers, was selected to the league’s all-rookie team, while Mount Allison Mounties senior and team captain Heather Richards of St. Anthony was named as conference’s most sportsmanlike player.

In the men’s conference, forward Tyler Boland of St. John’s was a second-team selection at forward after a sophomore campaign that saw him pile up 38 points (fourth-most in the AUS) in 30 games for No. 1-seeded UNB, all while registering a whopping plus-28 rating.

Boland and the Varsity Reds, No. 2 in the country, opened up their best-of-five semifinal with a 3-1 victory over the UPEI Panthers Thursday. UPEI, with defenceman Andrew Picco of Marystown and forward Nathan Yetman of St. John’s on the roster, were looking to even things up Friday night in Fredericton before the series shifts to Charlottetown, P.E.I., on Monday.

The other men’s semifinal also began Thursday, as the Saint Mary’s Huskies, the nation’s eighth-ranked side, blanked the St. Francis Xavier X-Men 3-0 in Halifax.

Game 2 of the series is tonight in Halifax.

There are no Newfoundlanders on the Huskies, but the X-Men — who are coached by Goulds native Brad Peddle — have three — rookie defenceman Adam Holwell and forward Marcus Cuomo, both of St. John’s, and defenceman Aaron Hoyles of Gander. However, Hoyles didn’t play Thursday as he continues serving a league-imposed suspension for his part in a brawl against the Acadia Axemen late in the season.

Peddle and his Acadia counterpart Darren Burns were each handed 10-game suspensions after a review of the incident. They had originally been given two games.

Hoyles’ suspension, which was expanded to seven games after the review, is set to finish tonight.

He served two of the games in the regular season and three more in a first-round quarter-final between Acadia and St. FX, with the X-Men prevailing 2-1.

brendan.mccarthy@thetelegram.com

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