UPEI defeats Saint Mary’s in opening game of the playoffs
The UPEI Panthers survived a bad start Wednesday to defeat the Saint Mary’s Huskies 3-1 to win the opening game of the playoffs.
The Panthers can win the best-of-three Atlantic University Sport (AUS) quarter-final with a victory Friday in Halifax. Game 3, if necessary, goes Sunday in Charlottetown.
On Wednesday, the Panthers took a too many men penalty 41 seconds into the game and defenceman Alex Wall was called for delay of game for chipping the puck over the glass 1:08 later.
“Not the start we wanted,” captain Mason Wilgosh said. “We killed that off and it built some momentum for us. . . We never really looked back.”
Wall said it was tough to put his team down two man, especially early in the game, but he had confidence his teammates would kill it, which they did.
“It was huge for us because that could have been the difference in the game,” he said.
Wilgosh said the PK sparked the team.
“Right after we killed that off you could see the jump,” he said, “we were up on the bench.”
About four minutes after Wall’s penalty expired, left-winger Chris DeSousa beat Huskies goalie Anthony Peters with the Panthers second shot of the night.
UPEI right-winger Nathan McQuaid almost made it 2-0 a few minutes later, but was stopped on a breakaway in front of about 1,100 people at MacLauchlan Arena.
Wilgosh potted the game-winning goal moments later. Wall started the goal-scoring play by sending Cody McNaughton in on a breakaway. McNaughton beat the goalie but the puck hit the post and bounced to the top of the crease where a driving Wilgosh found it for a tap in.
“That’s what they say, ‘just go to the net hard,’” Wilgosh said. “That’s all I did and got rewarded.”
The Panthers had a five-on-three power play of their own late in the first period, but could not cash in. They went to dressing room up 2-0.
Saint Mary’s Stephen Johnston cut the deficit in half about eight minutes into the second period after Panthers goalie Wayne Savage turned aside the first few chances.
UPEI centre Dana Fraser restored the two-goal lead 10 minutes later off a rebound.
There was no scoring in the third period.
Wall had two assists while singles went to Cole MacMillan, Cody McNaughton and Tyler Brown. Matt Tipoff and Gerrad Grant had helpers for the Huskies.
Wayne Savage stopped 28 shots for the win and was named the player of the game while Anthony Peters made 20 saves in the loss.
“Our goalie played great like always,” Wall said.
The Panthers were pleased with the outcome, but know the job is far from complete.
“We can be happy today, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Wilgosh said. “We have to get prepared and not get too high here.”
Wall and Wilgosh said there are a few things the team needs to clean up for Friday’s contest.
“We have to play with energy, just like we did for parts of tonight, but we have to be consistent for the whole 60 minutes,” Wall said.
UPEI 3 Saint Mary’s 1
UPEI at Saint Mary’s, 7 p.m.
Sunday, if necessary
Saint Mary’s at UPEI, 7 p.m.