First place, 11-1-1
At the start of the season it appeared the Panthers would go undefeated. They had a minor hiccup opposite UNB in mid-October, falling 2 – 1, but continued their strong push until a disappointing tie against winless Acadia in the second last game of the season. The Panthers, though, still handily won the league with 34 points.
The Panthers hold an obvious strength in defence, allowing for few offensive chances from their opponents. They simply don’t surrender the middle—their secret to only conceding five goals this season. The UPEI backfield is anchored by Chanelle Roy, arguably the best keeper in the AUS.
Up front the Panthers have an impressive roster as well, with a mix of veteran and rookie talent. First-year sensation Maria Scichilone and fifth-year Chelsie McInnis each have six goals.
UPEI is definitely seen as a strong competitor entering the playoffs, in which they have a bye to the semis. With their combination of a near-impenetrable defence and ability to create offence on the rush, the Panthers are the team to beat.
Second place, 10-2-1
Saint Mary’s is a well-rounded team, able to play good defence and sustain offensive pressure. SMU opened the campaign with a 2 – 0 loss to UPEI, but battled back to win their next seven before tying Dal. They lost to CBU this past weekend.
On defence the Huskies differ from the already mentioned Panthers. Instead of forcing the ball carrier to a poor angle, SMU defenders attack head-on. This aggressive style has worked for the Huskies, one of the top defensives in the AUS. They only gave up nine goals.
SMU is not only strong defending, but the attack too. Saint Mary’s is responsible for the league’s second most productive offence with 25 goals.
The team meeting the Huskies this weekend in the semifinals, which SMU receives a bye toward, need look further than Kelly Burgess to stop Saint Mary’s attack. Although teams know Burgess and her 13 goals—tied for the AUS lead—is a main source of offence, finding a defender to keep her from the net has proven a challenge. Saint Mary’s will hope it continues to be.
Third place, 9-3-1
Dalhousie has had their high points and rough patches this season, yet only one question matters: are they champions?
The Tigers are a force offensively. Rieka Santilli has been known to score from well outside the box. If the long shot is saved or doesn’t make the net, Doriana Homerski is generally able to finish. Biannca Jakisa’s speed gives Dal another option on the wing, as does the craftiness of Pamela Krieg in front of the net.
The Tigers’ backline also looks promising. It is presumed the team with the second fewest goals against (8) in the AUS would be solid defensively, but this is not always the case. Defensive blunders have been common, and, if not for Taryn McKenna in net, those mistakes may have resulted in more devastating results. Errors are understandable with the youth of this Tigers team, but they must tighten up defensively to be AUS champs.
The Tigers may have narrowly missed a first round bye, but it may be more of a blessing than a curse. Dal plays a weak UNB squad in the quarterfinals, which is almost as good as a bye. Expect the Tigers to be favourites this weekend.
Fourth place, 9-4-0
Cape Breton began the season swiftly, ranking first and quickly asserting their dominance over the AUS. It was only until their fourth game when they surrendered their first goal in a 3 – 2 defeat to Dal.
The Capers offence is by far the league’s supreme force. They lead the circuit with 34 goals and Karolyne Blaine is credited for 13 of them—tying Burgess for the league lead. Cape Breton was only held from the board twice all season, managing to shutout the opposition eight times.
The team was most proficient at home, going undefeated with a 6-0-0 record. Unfortunately for them, the playoffs are not in their backyard.
Cape Breton may boast a superb offence, but their defence does not garner the same praise. The acclaim for any defensive success they have had this year must include their constant offensive focus and possession time, not their passive defensive play.
The Capers have played three keepers this year, not relying on a single starter. Who they start in their quarterfinal match against St. FX Nov. 4 is an unknown.
St. FX X-Women
Fifth place, 6-6-1
An average team in the AUS, the X-Women play the Cape Breton Capers in the quarterfinals. The teams have met twice this season, the first a 4 – 1 win for X and the second a 3 – 0 CBU victory. X must rely on solid defence and in keeping the ball in the CBU zone as much as possible to win.
St. FX is neither an extremely offensive team, nor a defensive one. They are poor at both. Their goals for and against hover in the middle of the rankings, and while those are not bad numbers, they are not impressive either.
Deserving of their position in the standings, St. FX beat the teams below them and have had trouble with those above. The fact that X is unable to compete against the stronger teams in the AUS should cause them harm. Perhaps a win against the Capers, however, could give them the necessary momentum to compete in the semis.
The smart bet on the X-Women is better luck next year, but their game against CBU should be close.
UNB Varsity Reds
Sixth place, 4-7-2
The UNB Varsity Reds, host team this weekend, thankfully does not have to travel far because they more than likely won’t last past Friday. The league’s worst defensive team (30 goals against) must become more disciplined if they hope to squeak past the Tigers in Friday’s quarterfinal.
UNB’s play this season has not been entirely negative, of course—they are, after all, the only team to beat the No. 1 ranked UPEI Panthers; a feat made more impressive by their 7 – 0 defeat to CBU the next day.
UNB’s defenders have also been kind to other teams, donating six goals to Moncton (the Aigles Bleus only managed to score 11 all season). UNB was also charitable while playing Dal and St. FX, conceding four goals in both.
The Varsity Reds can score on the opposing net as well, proven in late September when they scored a combined nine goals—allowing only two—in victories against Acadia and Moncton.
Dal coach Jack Hutchison shouldn’t take UNB lightly, but he should anticipate a lighter contest for his charges.