Panthers open new season at home this weekend
© Guardian photo by Mitch MacDonald
UPEI Panthers head coach Lewis Page watches his players go through their drills Thursday in Charlottetown.
The UPEI Panthers men’s soccer team will today put the final touches of their preparations for season-opening action this weekend.
The Panthers will host the UNB Reds on Saturday at 4:15 p.m. to begin a new season in the Atlantic University Sport conference.
Much like it did in 2009, the Panthers will be again be bolstered by an abundance of young, eager Canada Games players hopeful of tying down a position on the 18-player dress list.
This year’s Panthers will see six Canada Games players — Lucas Holmes and Kieran Moore at striker, Cullen Mullally, Brooks MacLean in midfield and Jeff Moore and Zach Tweel on the back line.
In goal, coach Lewis Page has added two new keepers in local senior player Brett MacDonald and six-foot-four Stephen Corkum from Nova Scotia’s South Shore senior men’s team.
The Panthers will be anchored by returning co-captains Adam Lowther and Cole MacMillan, as well as defenders Dan Hill and Kieran Dutton and midfielder Brett Hogan.
Page is pleased with the team’s showing in last weekend’s Mulligan Cup tournament, holding Moncton to a scoreless draw and edging Mount Allison 1-0.
“Its good to have the Canada Games players coming in and a lot of them will probably get a chance to play,” said Page. “I think the attitude of the players in training camp to really work hard together has been really great. We may not be the flashiest team in the league, but we’re going to be well organized and prepared to work hard and compete all the time.
“I think we’re in the top half of the league. There has been a lot of turnover in the league and I think it will be interesting this season.”
Lowther says he’s looking forward to being a co-captain with the club.
“I think having a co-captain this year makes a lot of sense,” said Lowther. “There are a lot of rookies this year, so there will be more to deal with. They will have two guys to look up to and to go and talk to and it will make it easier on us.
“I think the Canada Games program has been great for Panther soccer. Not only do you get fit players into the team, but they are really motivated and that catches on with the rest of the team. These players have had professional coaches through their teen age years, so they come here knowing what is expected of them as a high level athlete.”
Casey Dowd, Bruce Norton and Dave Snowie are the assistant coaches with the Panthers.
The Panthers will host the Mounties on Sunday at 3:15 p.m.