Epic Comeback Pushes REDS Into U SPORTS Semi-Final

The REDS leap off the bench to celebrate their 5-4 shootout win over the McGill Martlets, Thursday, at the U SPORTS Women's Hockey Championship, in Charlottetown. (PHOTO: Mike Needham/for UPEI Athletics)
The REDS leap off the bench to celebrate their 5-4 shootout win over the McGill Martlets, Thursday, at the U SPORTS Women's Hockey Championship, in Charlottetown. (PHOTO: Mike Needham/for UPEI Athletics)

(CHARLOTTETOWN, PE) Ashley Stratton's shootout goal capped an epic four goal comeback by the UNB REDS in Thursday's quarter-final round at the U SPORTS Women's Hockey Championship, in Charlottetown.

Stratton's goal, followed by a Kendra Woodland save, gave the No. 2 REDS a 5-4 win over No. 7 McGill.

UNB trailed 4-1 to start the third period, but scored just 38 seconds in, when Jana Headrick, pinching down from her blue line position, found a loose puck in front and lifted it past Martlets goalie Tricia Deguire.

Jenna MacLean scored less than 90 seconds later to trim McGill's lead to 4-3.

Then, with UNB on the powerplay, Lily George brought UNB all the way back, scoring at 10:31.

There were opportunities for both teams during the second half of the third period, but neither could break the deadlock.

A ten-minute overtime period saw chances for each team too, but neither team scored.

Stratton was the only player to score in the shootout, wristing a shot past Deguire. Woodland then stoned McGill's Jade Downie-Landry, named U SPORTS Player of the Year on Wednesday, to send the REDS to the national semi-finals.

"Unbelievable. I think I've been saying that word a lot this year, but I think this one tops it all off," said Woodland. "It's just unbelievable. The way that the girls battled back tonight was unreal. I'm so proud of the team that we have and the effort that they put in tonight.

It was a shaky start. It wasn't the start that we'd hoped, but at the same time we know how to battle back in those games. We've been doing it all season and we do it when it counts, and tonight, it counted."

With the win, the REDS advance to Saturday's semi-finals, and will face the winner of Thursday's second quarter-final between UBC and Nipissing.

Shootout hero Stratton was named the REDS' player of the game.

Amidst a lengthy post-game celebration, Stratton recounted the moment.

"It was a little nerve wracking, I'm not going to lie," she said. "I was skating up to it and I knew I had the goalie down, and just a little chip up and it went in and it was pretty exciting."

The REDS started tentatively against a good Martlets team, but their confidence appeared to blossom just past the five-minute mark of the first period.

First period goals by Laura Jardin and Marika Labrecque quieted the REDS, and McGill led 2-0 after one period.

In the second, after some good opening minute pressure by Reagan Minor and George, McGill was awarded a penalty shot, at the 1:17 mark.

Downie-Landry took the penalty for the Martlets, but Woodland turned her away.

Moments later, Sydney Oitomen got a shot off in front of the McGill net, just squeezing the puck over the line to put UNB on the board.

The Martlets responded quickly though, scoring less than a minute later on a Downie-Landry breakaway, to make it a 3-1 game.

McGill added their fourth goal with 15 seconds to play in the second period.

Cue the UNB comeback.

"We just didn't want to give up," said George. "We knew we had to work our butts off to come back in this game and we knew our jobs, we just really had to bear down and we came out hard, luckily, and got a couple of pucks in the net, so it was good."

Minor had a great night, assisting on all three of UNB's third period goals.

What inspired the REDS in between the second and third periods?

"I said why not us, why can't we do that, why can't we come back," said head coach Sarah Hilworth. "We had yet to play our game at that point. I thought we'd pushed hard in the second period and we needed a little more patience in front of the net, she's a good goalie and she's going to make good saves. I didn't think we put enough pressure on her, so we just calmed them down and made sure they knew that we could do this and that it just takes one good shift to switch the momentum and get it back our way."

Switch momentum they did.

The Martlets, who looked dominant in parts of the first and second period, struggled to stay with the REDS in the third period and much of overtime.

"We've wanted to play for a U SPORTS medal, that was our goal this year and it's nice to know that we'll be in contention to play for a medal," said Coach Hilworth. "I knew that they could do it. I have so much belief in them. At no point did I doubt that we could come back and that we could really push... we were very inexperienced in the first period, a little bit of nerves got us, and I just think that we did an amazing job and I'm just so happy for them."

Saturday's semi-final game, regardless of the opponent, will start at 4:00pm Atlantic.


RECAP BY: Andy Campbell/UNB Athletics

PHOTOS BY: Mike Needham/for UPEI Athletics