The UPEI Panthers will be paying attention to the game at hand and not the national rankings when they face defending champion UNB Varsity Reds in Fredericton tonight.
The Panthers left the province Wednesday night to face the Varsity Reds in the Atlantic University Sport men’s hockey semifinal series at 7 p.m.
While UNB was ranked No. 1 in the country for the fourth consecutive week, UPEI forward Mason Wilgosh said the squad is feeling good after sweeping the St. F.X. X-Men in the quarter-finals.
He said the Panthers are not about to get caught up in or be intimidated by standings or rankings.
“We’re not really looking at the fact that they’re first,” said Wilgosh, who has recorded a point in both UPEI playoff games so far. “We're just looking at doing what we do best.”
Wilgosh, who missed nearly half of the 28 game season with a 12-game suspension, returned to the team for the final regulation game against the St. Thoms Tommies.
The first-year forward was an immediate scoring threat for the Panthers upon returning, netting a goal in the 5-1 romp over the Tommies.
In the first playoff game against St.F.X., Wilgosh picked up the assist after making a crucial pass that led to Mike MacIsaac’s game-winning goal.
In Game 2, Wilgosh scored late in the first period to give UPEI a 2-0 lead.
It was shortly after that goal when the forward suffered a vicious hit from behind, which led to a game misconduct for St. F.X.’s Cole Grbava.
Wilgosh had to be helped off the ice, but later returned to the game.
He said the team has received much support around the city and on campus since beginning playoffs.
“We’ve been hearing lots . . . people congratulating us and telling us to keep going,” he said. “It’s good to see people are supporting us. And they’re happy to see that we’re succeeding.”
Game 2 will follow in Fredericton Friday night, while the series will move to MacLauchlan Arena for 7 p.m. Monday.
If necessary, game four will be played at MacLauchlan Arena Tuesday.
Advance tickets for season pass holders starts Friday at noon until 5 p.m. at the CARI Complex with the same time Saturday. General rush tickets go on sale Sunday and Monday from noon to 5 p.m.