Resilient Panthers start playoffs tonight at Acadia

Jason Malloy
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The Acadia Axemen were ranked No. 1 in Canada a couple of weeks ago while the UPEI Panthers finished below .500.

Throw it all out the window because the Atlantic University Sport men's hockey quarter-final is a best-of-three affair starting tonight in Wolfville, N.S.

"It doesn't matter if we finished second or sixth, we're still in the playoffs and that's when the real season starts," Panthers forward Cole MacMillan said before Tuesday's practice. "In games like these, when it counts, UPEI is always ready to go to war."

He said it's been the case all seasonand for his five years at UPEI.

"We've kind of taken pride in being that team that's just miserable to play against," MacMillan said. "We're not the most skilled, we just go and play hard. I can guarantee you nobody in the league wants to play us when it comes down to a game that really matters."

The Panthers were ravished by injuries to key players this season. It had a short bench on a number of nights, but found a way to earn enough points to make the playoffs.

"I think we learned a lot this year," captain Mason Wilgosh said. "This is our team, and we've done it all together."

Head coach Forbes MacPherson said his group deserves a lot of credit for playing hard every night regardless of the adversity it faced.

It has made the Panthers battle-tested before the playoffs begin and anything can happen in a short series.

"There's no pressure on us," MacPherson said. "We can go in there, be committed, play hard and let the chips fall where they may."

He called it "critical" for the home team to win Game 1 of a best-of-three series.

Fifth-year Panther Mavric Parks gets the start tonight after missing much of the second semester with a lower-body injury.

MacPherson said it was not an easy decision with the way Matt Mahalak played while Parks was sidelined.

"I just don't think that a player should lose the spot due to an injury," MacPherson said. "Mavric's put in a lot of good years for us and he deserves the nod tomorrow . . . We know what he is capable of doing."

"We've kind of taken pride in being that team that's just miserable to play against." Cole MacMillan, UPEI Panthers forward

Game 2 is Friday at 7 p.m. at MacLauchlan Arena.

Tickets are $15 and are available in the rink lobby today and Thursday between noon and 5 p.m. and Friday from noon to game time. Season ticket holders are asked to pick up their tickets by Thursday.

  

Need to know

A look at some of the statistics heading into tonight's Game 1 of the Atlantic University Sport men's hockey quarter-final between UPEI and Acadia.

Records

Acadia - 19-7-2, third place.

UPEI - 11-14-3, sixth place.

 

Top scorers

 

Acadia - Mike Cazzola (16, 14), Brett Thompson (12, 17), Matthew Pufahl (3, 28) and Boston Leier (14, 11).

UPEI - Marcus Power (10, 22), Brent Andrews (13, 12), Nelson Armstrong (5, 15) and Mason Wilgosh (8, 12).

Goalies

Acadia - Brandon Glover (15-7, 2.58 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage).

UPEI - Mavric Parks (5-9, 3.70 GAA and a .885 save percentage) and Matt Mahalak (6-8, 2.77 GAA and a .914 save percentage).

Head to head

Sept. 31

Acadia 4 at UPEI 1

 

Nov. 14

 

UPEI 5 at Acadia 6 OT

Jan. 22

UPEI 3 at Acadia 1

Feb. 5

Acadia 2 at UPEI 1 SO

Organizations: Panthers, Atlantic University Sport, Acadia 1

Geographic location: Acadia, Canada, Wolfville

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