Panthers play Dalhousie Friday in Halifax to open AUS season
The UPEI Panthers are ready to prove the preseason was a good indication of what’s to come.
The Panthers went 5-1 in exhibition action with the only blemish being a 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Gee-Gees. They moved up a spot in this week’s Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) ranking to sixth.
“We tried to challenge our players with a couple of hard road trips and they did well in those early tests,” coach Forbes MacPherson said Thursday. “It is preseason and the real action starts tomorrow night. . . We’re ready and prepared to go. It’s basically game on.”
The Panthers start the Atlantic University Sport men’s hockey schedule tonight in Halifax against Dalhouise at 7 p.m.
“Dalhousie has kind of been our Achilles heel the past couple of years,” MacPherson said. “They’re a very difficult team to play against, well coached, good goaltending and the Forum is always a hard arena to play in.”
The Panthers complete the weekend with a 2 p.m. game Sunday with the Acadia Axemen in Wolfville, N.S. The Panthers host the same two teams next weekend for their first home games of the season. UPEI’s five graduates from 2012-13 have all signed pro deals. Matt Boyle and Jordan Knox are playing in Hungary. Dylan Quaile and Zach McCullough are with Elmira in the East Coast Hockey League while Mike MacIsaac recently signed with Brampton of the Central Hockey League.
The Panthers have four new players this season. They are right-winger Cody McNaughton and blue-liners Derek Ryckman, Brock Beukeboom and Casey Babineau. The rookie defencemen have added size and toughness, which was important given the players they lost.
“They’ve been a great fit,” MacPherson said. “We didn’t lose any of that tenacity. We never lost any of that sandpaper.”
The team now has four lefties and four righties, giving them more balance.
“We were a team that was loaded with left-handed D and in certain faceoff situations sometimes it handicapped us a little bit.”