Women Panthers end regular season on the road
The UPEI Panthers will meet their playoff opponent this weekend in the final games of the regular season.
The Panthers (14-9-3), who are one point back of Moncton for third place in the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) men’s hockey conference, host Saint Mary’s (12-14) tonight at 7:30 p.m. and St. F.X. (11-12-3) Saturday at 7 p.m.
“It will be a good test for us, a good measuring stick for us, on the weekend,” Panthers’ head coach Forbes MacPherson said Thursday.
He said the team has been pushing for the playoffs for the past 20 games, given how tight the AUS is.
“You have to be in playoff mindset early in this conference,” he said.
And while playoff matchups are in people’s minds late in the season, he stresses focusing on the game at hand to his team.
“It’s natural to think about it, but the reality is you can’t focus on it,” MacPherson said. “At the end of the weekend, wherever the chips fall, then we’ll adapt to the situation and start to prepare for the playoffs.”
The Panthers are healthier than they have been during the past few weeks, but still have a couple of players who are questionable for tonight’s contest.
Right-winger Nick Czinder, who joined the Panthers in 2014, is in full practice now, but has yet to play.
“He’s getting closer as well, but (he’s) not there yet,” MacPherson said Thursday.
The coaching staff is excited by what he could bring to the lineup.
The UPEI women’s hockey team concludes its regular season tonight in Sackville, N.B.
The Panthers (8-13-2) play the Mount Allison Mounties (10-12-0) at 7 p.m. The Panthers could catch the Mounties for fifth place in the AUS standings, but it’s going to take a win by two goals and some help.
“We’ve said to them, ‘Really, you just have to go and play the game,’” coach Bruce Donaldson said.
“We’ve had a lot of close games this year, but at the end of the day we’re a fifth- or sixth-place team and we need to be more consistent.”
The Panthers played three of the conference’s best teams last week and lost one 1-0 and another in a shootout.
“(We) can play with the teams in front of us, it’s just a matter of that consistency and taking advantage of situations,” Donaldson said.
Goalie Marie Soleil Deschenes gets the start tonight for the Panthers.
Donaldson is proud of his team’s compete level. While they won’t be missing anyone from tonight’s game some Panthers are playing through injuries.
“Most of the girls in the program, beat up or not, they want to be there,” Donaldson said. “You have to give them full marks for their courage to stand up and say ‘I’m playing and I’m ready to go.’”
The Panthers will start the best-of-three playoffs on the road, either Tuesday in Moncton or Wednesday at St. Thomas.
The Panthers will host their playoff game Friday at 7 p.m.
A look at the UPEI Panthers weekend schedule.
UPEI at Mount Allison, 7 p.m.
Saint Mary’s at UPEI, 7:30 p.m.
UPEI at Memorial, 5:30 p.m.
St. F.X. at UPEI, 7 p.m.
UPEI at Memorial, 7:30 p.m.
UPEI at Memorial, 10:30 a.m.
UPEI at Memorial, 12:30 p.m.
The UPEI Panthers men’s hockey team will recognize one of its key supporters at Saturday night's home game.
Billy Mulligan has been the driving force organizing fundraisers in support of the program during the years.
Ron Annear asked Mulligan and others in 2006 to take control and promote the UPEI men’s hockey booster club. Mulligan was the guiding force behind the reorganization and promotion of the club’s activities, which he continues to do to this day.
While Mulligan prefers to work behind the scenes, his volunteer work has been recognized by a number of organizations, including Sport P.E.I., Charlottetown Minor Hockey Association, St. Dunstans Distinguished Alumni Association and the City of Charlottetown.
He was an outstanding athlete growing up. He was among the best hockey players on P.E.I. and also played softball, rugby and later golf.
Mulligan has coached and organized minor football and hockey, high school, collegiate and senior programs.