The UPEI Panthers have their work cut out for them.
The Panthers have to beat the Atlantic University Sport’s top-ranked St. F.X. X-Women tonight by two goals to advance to Sunday’s final. UPEI, the defending conference champions, dropped a 2-1 decision Friday to the host Mount Allison Mounties in their opening game of the six-team championship in Sackville, N.B.
“We knew when we came to this tournament we were going to have to beat St. F.X.,” coach Bruce Donaldson said. “Our position hasn’t changed.”
The Panthers are 0-4 against the X-Women this season. All four games were decided by one goal with three finishing 2-1 and the other 1-0 a week ago.
The Panthers have quickly turned the page to tonight’s 6 p.m. start with St. F.X.
“The girls when they left the dressing room tonight seemed really focused on that piece of it,” Donaldson said.
“Based on our play with St. F.X. this year, they feel confident going toe-to-toe with them. They recognize we’re the underdog going into it, but they have a very good attitude towards it.”
It is similar situation to last year’s championship, except the Panthers lost the opener in overtime and bounced back to beat the X-Women in the second game en route to the conference title.
Senior goalie Kristy Dobson will start with senior Bailey Toupin as her backup.
“She had great result last weekend against St. F.X. and great result last year,” Donaldson said of Dobson.
Friday the Panthers outshot the Mounties 43-26.
“We got beat by a hot goalie,” Donaldson said. “It was a great game, a very entertaining game.”
Fifth-year Mountie Meghan Corley-Byrne stopped 42 shots in the win. UPEI peppered her with 16 shots in each of the second and third periods, but Corley-Byrne rose to the challenge.
UPEI freshman Marie Soleil Deschenes stopped 24 of 26 shots she faced for the Panthers.
Murray River’s Ashlyn Somers opened the scoring by potting a rebound on a five-on-three power play in the first period. Keirstin Visser tied it in the second when she fired a pass from Bria Harding through a screen and beat Corley-Byrne high.
Lauren Oickle broke the tie at 7:19 of the third when she unloaded a blast after skating over the blue-line. The puck hit the post over Deschenes’ shoulder and went in for the eventual winner.
Donaldson said they have a number of chances to score, including ringing a couple off the posts early in the game and firing a shot over the net late.
“The girls played with a lot of heart and character,” Donaldson said. “They never gave up and worked hard.”
AUS women’s hockey
award winners named
Murray River’s Ashlyn Somers won the most sportsmanlike player award Friday for the second year in a row as the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) handed out its year-end women’s hockey awards.
The honour recognizes a player who maintains the standards of fair play and treats those around her with respect at all times.
Somers, a fourth-year senior, was the first-ever Mount Allison player to receive the award.
“Ashlyn has been a quality player for the Mounties over her four seasons and is a great leader,” said Mount Allison head coach Zach Ball.
“She plays the game with all the qualities the most sportsmanlike player award represents, and is a very deserving recipient. I am extremely happy that she has been honoured with this award for the second year in a row and we will definitely miss her next year.”
Somers had four assists and three minor penalties in 22 regular season games this year.
Third-year St. F.X. X-Women forward Alex Normore was named most valuable player for the second consecutive season.
Other awards went to Saint Mary’s Sienna Cooke, rookie of the year; St. Thomas’ Kayla Blackmore, student-athlete community service award; and St. F.X. X-Women’s David Synishin was named the coach of the year.
UPEI Panthers defenceman Keirstin Visser, a third-year player from Crapaud, was named to the first-team all-star squad.
Mount Allison blue-liner Emily van Diepen, a second-year player from Morell, and Moncton forward Kaitlyn Gallaway, a second-year player from Stratford, made the second-team all-star squad.