© Guardian Photo By Jason Malloy
UPEI Panthers forward Jordan Mayer takes a shot during Tuesday’s practice.
The UPEI Panthers look to begin the second semester strong as it hopes to climb up the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) men’s hockey standings.
UPEI (6-5-1), sixth in the eight-team AUS conference, hosts last-place Dalhousie (1-12-1) tonight at 7:30 p.m. and first-place Acadia (11-1-2) Saturday at 7 p.m.
“We have to win as many games as we can in the second half. It starts with the first game’s puck drop,” said captain Mason Wilgosh.
UPEI and Moncton each have played two fewer games than their counterparts due to a pair of games being postponed because of restrictions on the Confederation Bridge. The standings are tight with the Panthers two points back of third-place St. F.X.
UPEI played its final game on Nov. 30 and the team had a few weeks off before getting back on the ice on Dec. 27.
“There’s no better feeling,” Wilgosh said before practice on Tuesday. “It’s nice to be back, see the guys, get back on the ice and get back in shape and burn off some of those deserts.”
The Panthers were a bit banged up in the first half but are healthy heading into the second semester.
“That’s what is good about the break,” Wilgosh said. “It’s good everyone had the time to heel. Everybody is fresh and good to go.”
Coach Forbes MacPherson said the break provides an opportunity to re-energize.
“Once you get that break, there comes a certain point where you really get the itch to get back at it and I think that’s where we’re at,” he said.
“Their compete level is really high and their attitude and energy has been real positive.”
The nature of Canadian university hockey, with five weeks between games, really separates the season into two halves, the coach said.
This break was a bit different for MacPherson and four of his players. Goalie Wayne Savage, defencemen Matt Maione and Alex Wall and forward Chris DeSousa helped an AUS all-star team win gold for Canada on Dec. 21 at the Winter Universiade in Italy.
MacPherson said it was a “chance of a lifetime” and he hopes the five of them can bring the experience to the Panthers dressing room. The five had a few days off at Christmas before rejoining their teammates.
“It’s been nothing but UPEI since,” MacPherson said. “Right now it’s all green, white and black, that’s been our focus.”
While the Panthers are hosting the conference leaders (Acadia) and last-place team (Dalhousie) this weekend, the Panthers are not taking anything for granted.
“There’s a lot of parity in our league,” MacPherson said. “We really don’t get caught up in standings.”
He wants his players to worry about what they have to do to be successful. If they take care of their own business, MacPherson said they can make a second-half push.
“You’re always looking to capture some kind of momentum and, of course, the best way to do that is win your first shift, win your first period and then eventually hopefully your first game.”
Tale Of The Tape
u Record -
Dalhousie: 1-12-1, last in AUS.
UPEI: 6-5-1, sixth in AUS.
u Goals per game -
u Goals allowed per game -
u Penalty minutes -
u Power play -
Dalhousie: 10.3 per cent.
UPEI: 16 per cent.
u Penalty killing -
Dalhousie: 77.1 per cent.
UPEI: 95.5 per cent.
u Top scorers -
Dalhousie: Chris Ivanko, seven goals and four assists; Brett Theberge, six goals and two assists.
UPEI: Matt Maione, two goals and 10 assists; Tyler Brown, six goals and five assists; Chris DeSousa, seven goals and four assists.
u Goalies -
Dalhousie: Wendell Vye, 0-5-0 with a 4.43 GAA; Bobby Nadeau, 1-8-0 with a 4.57 GAA.
UPEI: Wayne Savage, 4-2-0 with a 1.95 GAA; Mavric Parks, 2-4-0 with a 2.87 GAA
Head To Head
u UPEI vs. Dalhousie -
Oct. 18: UPEI 5, Dalhousie 1
Oct. 25: UPEI 2, Dalhousie 1
Tonight: Dalhousie at UPEI, 7:30 p.m.
u UPEI vs. Acadia -
Oct. 20: UPEI 4, Acadia 2
Oct. 26: Acadia 2, UPEI 1
Saturday: Acadia at UPEI, 7 p.m.