ANTIGONISH, N.S. – Mike MacIsaac was the road hero for UPEI Wednesday night, scoring late in the third period to give the Panthers a crucial 4-3 win in opening playoff action against the St. F.X. X-Men.
UPEI leads the best-of-three Atlantic University Sport quarter-final 1-0 and can wrap up the series Friday at MacLauchlan Arena. Game time in 7 p.m. A third game, if necessary, will be played Sunday night in Antigonish.
The fifth-place Panthers have backed the fourth-place X-Men into a corner after stealing the win in the back-and-forth playoff game at the Charles Keating Millennium Centre.
MacIsaac said the win was a result of "battling hard all game."
"They got that goal late in the third but we never gave up," said MacIsaac. "We answered right back."
Mason Wilgosh, who sat out a 12-game suspension before returning for the Panthers final regular season contest last Friday, set MacIsaac on the game-clincher.
UPEI was assessed just three minor penalties in the contest while the X-Men were called for four minors in front of the crowd of 1,412.
UPEI’s other goals were scored on the power play by Jordan Mayer
and Travis McIsaac, while Matthew Brenton scored even strength.
Helpers went to Alex Wall, Matt Maione, Reggie Traccitto and Brenton.
St. FX goals were scored by Spencer McAvoy on the power play, Brad Cuzner short-handed and Cole Grbavac even strength. Helpers went to Michael Kirkpatrick and Josh Day.
The loss was a heartbreaker for X.
"It's pretty tough because you put in so much work to get this home-ice advantage," said Grbavac.
"They got that goal late in the third but we never gave up. We answered right back." - Mike MacIsaac, UPEI hockey Panther
Brenton drew first blood in an early attack on X netminder Joseph
Perricone to give UPEI a 1-0 lead less than two minutes in.
"We didn't want to see that but the boys did a good job of regrouping and coming back hard in the second period,"
The second period saw a minor X rally begin when McAvoy slipped one past UPEI goalie Wayne Savage during a power play at 2:21.
Cuzner then scored a short-hander for X at 9:12 for a 2-1 lead.
Mayer answered back less than 20 seconds later while the Panthers were still on the power play.
The final period saw Travis McIsaac slip one through the five-hole during a power play 48 seconds in to give UPEI a 3-2 lead.
Grbavac scored with four minutes remaining and it looked like the game was about to enter extra time.
MacIsaac's goal ended much of overtime speculation, as UPEI held on for the win.
MacIsaac said the team is determined on wrapping up the series with a win Friday.
"We just have to play the same way we played tonight," he said.
"Everybody goes hard, everybody moves their feet like they can and we'll be successful."
Savage made 34 stops in net, while Perricone blocked 48 of the Panthers shots.
The other AUS quarter-final match Wednesday saw the Moncton Blue
Eagles upset the Acadia Axemen 7-5 in Wolfville, N.S.