The UPEI Panthers will have little time to dwell on a tough 7-2 road loss Thursday night to the UNB Varsity Reds in the opening game of their Atlantic University Sport men’s hockey semifinal series in Fredericton, N.B.
The Varsity Reds scored four times in the third period to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series. Game two is tonight at 7 in Fredericton.
Panthers’ head coach Forbes MacPherson said while the team is disappointed in the start to the series, there is little time to look back on the loss.
“We have to understand it’s a five-game series and at some point we have to win a game here (in Fredericton) to win the series,” he said. “And we have the opportunity to do that tomorrow night.”
Both teams went head-to-head early with UPEI leading in shots for most of the first period and dominating much of the physical play.
However, an early power-play goal from Cam Braes at 6:41 gave UNB a lead the Panthers would never recover from as the Varsity Reds capitalized on nearly every opportunity.
“I thought we played well for the first two periods but it seemed they scored on every opportunity they had,” said MacPherson.
Forward Nick MacNeil scored two of UNB’s goals while even-strength singles went to Stefan Salituro and Josh Kidd. Tyler Carroll and Bryce Swan both scored on power plays.
Chris Culligan, Colby Pridham and Braes each earned a pair of helpers for UNB. Single assists went to Ben Shutron, Ben Wright, Dion Campbell, Taylor MacDougall, Matt Fillier and Cam Critchlow.
UPEI grinded out the first half of second period until MacNeil scored twice, once at 10:22 and again at 13:08, to make it three unanswered goals for UNB.
The Panthers finally got on the board when Tyler Brown scored on a rebound during a five-on-three power play at 16:09.
UPEI’s other goal was also scored during a power play when defenceman Reggie Traccitto took a shot from the point at 13:10 of the third period.
Traccitto and Brown also picked up assists, while other Panther helpers went to Mason Wilgosh and Chris DeSousa.
While UNB led 3-1 after 40 minutes, UPEI still appeared to be in the running by dominating the physical side of the game.
Both teams were also even in shots at 26 apiece.
However, Salituro scored on a wrap-around when he caught UPEI netminder Wayne Savage off guard at 2:13.
Kidd netted another at 6:39 to make it 5-1, and Savage was replaced in goal with Mavric Parks.
However, a UPEI roughing minor led to UNB’s Tyler Carroll scoring from a set up from Braes at 7:20 to give UNB an insurmountable 6-1 lead.
Traccitto’s goal seemed to be a motivator for UPEI, although it appeared the game was already lost.
Swan scored during a breakaway off the faceoff to finish the game 7-2.
Savage stopped 24 of the 29 shots he faced, while Parks blocked nine of 11. Lacosta stopped 28 shots.
Final shots were 40-30 in favour of UNB.
UPEI went 2-for-4 on power plays, while UNB was 3-for-6.
The Panthers were called for 34 minutes on 14 infractions while UNB was assessed 18 minutes on nine infractions.
Game 3 of the series is set for Monday at 7 p.m. at MacLauchlan Arena.
The other semifinal game Thursday saw the Saint Mary’s Huskies defeat the Acadia Axemen 4-2 in Halifax to even that series 1-1.