Failure to cash in on a 5-on-3 power play during the third period Saturday against the UNB Varsity Reds cost the UPEI Panthers much more than a potential goal.
The men’s hockey team saw a weekend sweep slip from its grasp in a 3-2 loss to UNB at MacLauchlan Arena in the two teams’ first meeting since last year’s playoff semifinal series.
In a game that could have went either way, the power play came at a crucial moment as the teams were tied 2-2 and nearing the final 10 minutes of the match.
The Panthers also took a timeout to prepare for the power play opportunity.
However, nothing happened.
“The game was pretty much on the line, and we didn’t put the puck in the net,” said Panther forward Chris DeSousa.
“You have to score in those moments.”
The home loss came after a 6-3 road win Friday against rival Moncton Blue Eagles, where DeSousa scored two goals, one being the game winner.
Heading into the Moncton game, the Panthers had only won a single Friday match this year, the home opener.
DeSousa said the team focused on starting the weekend off with the right foot.
“We talked before the game about how we’ve been letting Friday nights slip,” he said. “We just wanted those two points on Friday night and the chance to sweep the weekend.”
While the team got the two points in Friday’s game, the sweep was not be.
Saturday’s game saw both teams grind out a scoreless first period.
However, UNB started the second period with a vengeance. Thomas Nesbitt and Alberton native Colby Pridham both scored in the first 1:02 of the period to give UNB a 2-0 lead.
While a two-goal deficit in the AUS can be impossible to come back from in some games, the Panthers did just that.
Rookie forward Tyler Brown took advantage of a UPEI power play to get free in front of the net. A pass from Jordan Mayer was all Brown needed for a quick goal at 4:41.
Brown’s goal was followed up with defenceman Alex Wall’s unassisted goal at 8:54 to tie the game going into the second intermission.
UNB forward Antoine Houde-Caron found himself alone in front of the Panthers net at 9:56 for the game winner just after UPEI failed to capitalize on its 5-on-3 opportunity.
Taking his time, Houde-Caron managed to flip the puck over Panther netminder Mavric Parks.
While the Panthers had several more chances, which included pulling Parks for an extra attacker, no one could get past Daniel Lacosta, who recorded 23 saves in the win.
“Lacosta played really well in that third period, you have to give him credit,” said DeSousa.
Parks recorded 27 saves in the loss.
DeSousa said despite the loss, he felt the team played well in both games against two of the conference’s better teams.
“We were able to come back (against UNB),” he said. “It was unfortunate how we lost but I thought we played well and the game could have gone either way.”
Other AUS games Saturday saw Acadia down St. F.X. 2-1 and Moncton defeat St. Thomas 3-2.
The Panthers are back home this coming weekend, facing off against the Acadia Axemen on Friday and Dalhousie Tigers on Saturday.