© Andy Campbell/UNB Athletics
UPEI netminder Mavric Parks made 37 saves Friday night as the Panthers dropped Game 2 of their Atlantic University Sport men's hockey semifinal series 5-2 to the UNB Varsity Reds. UNB will take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series into Charlottetown's MacLauchlan Arena on Monday night.
FREDERICTON -- They’re not dead yet -- but the UPEI Panthers were killed time and time again Friday night by the UNB Varsity Reds.
The V-Reds actually killed two lengthy 5-on-3 penalties and 12 of 13 power plays all tolled, to spark a 5-2 victory over the Panthers in the second game of the best-of-five Atlantic University Sport men’s hockey conference semifinal series before 3.174 fans at Fredericton’s Aitken Centre.
The Varsity Reds lead the series 2-0 with the teams heading back to Charlottetown for the third game Monday night.
First period goals by Mike Thomas and Jordan Murray on the power play, second period tallies by Chris Clapperton and Rob Mignardi and an empty netter by Matt Boudens nullified a first period shorthanded marker by Craig Maclaughlan and a second period power play marker by Marcus Power.
After Craig MacLaughlan of the Panthers opened the scoring on a shorthanded goal 4:12 in, leaping on a loose puck and scoring past V-Reds goaltender Etienne Marcoux on a breakaway, the V-Reds answered back.
Thomas fired a rocket from the right wing boards through the legs of goaltender Mavric Parks at 10:18.
“I was just going wide and I saw Taylor (linemate MacDougall) driving the net,” said Thomas. “You put it on net, and you never know what can happen, right? I just tried to get it on net and it went somewhere through his pads.”
The V-Reds jumped into a 2-1 lead on a power play goal by Murray at 12:33, but had to work hard to keep it. The Panthers had a chance to tie it up with a two-man power play for 1:51 when defencemen Colin Suellentrop and Marcus McIvor went off eight seconds apart, at 13:12 and 13:20. Things were further complicated when Murray broke his stick on the kill. But centre Taylor MacDougall handed him his stick and the V-Reds managed to survive the Panthers’ flurry and preserve the lead.
They were called upon to do the deed two more times -- for 56 seconds and then 1:48 later in the game. They came up empty each time.
For Panthers coach Forbes MacPherson, that’s where this one got away.
“They were missed opportunities for sure,” he said. “When we’ve had success this year, we’ve scored some really timely goals. We ended up getting one, but if we had got one on one of those earlier 5-on-3s, the situation would have been a little different. We got one that kept us in the game and ignited us in the last half of the game. But looking back, three opportunities like that...they’re golden chances, and you have to capitalize.”
MacPherson had hoped they would be fast, not fancy.
“We adjusted for the third one, but sometimes when you’re pressing like that, you’re looking for the perfect goal,” said MacPherson. 'On 5-on-3 opportunities, you want the easy shot because it’s 5-on-3. And sometimes, you just have to hammer away. I thought we were just hanging onto the puck a little too much and we were killing a lot of the penalty.”
MacLaughlan’s shortie to open came on the Panthers’ first shot on goal.
“The kid made a heck of a shot,’ said Varsity Reds coach Gardiner MacDougall.
They wound up with 10 in the period, most of them coming on the 5-on-3 manpower advantage. The V-Reds poured 19 at Parks, and could have easily been up by a couple more through the opening 20 minutes.
In the second, Clapperton’s quick one-timer of a Cam Braes feed 18 seconds into the period lengthened the lead.
The V-Reds survived another 5-on-3 shortage when Beauvilier and Matt Petgrave went off 64 seconds apart early in the second. nce again, they escaped unscathed, and the Panthers missed an opportunity to make a dent.
Three for a quarter? Penalties to Beauvilier on a check from behind and then MacDougall for a slash a dozen seconds apart gave the Panthers their third extended 5-on-3 advantage midway through the second. Finally, they cashed Power, on the power play, naturally -- at 12:52, and still had 1:12 on the second penalty.
The V-Reds’ frustration with referees Jeff Hopkins and Josh McCormick began to surface -- Willick drew a 10-minute misconduct late in the frame...a frame in which the Panthers continued to hang around and stay one shot away.
One shot away until Mignardi redirected a Cam Brace pass past Parks at 16:18 to make it 4-2 and give the V-Reds some breathing room.
They maintained it -- and their composure mostly -- in the third. They took only a couple of penalties, navigating the frustrating work of Hopkins and McCormick.
“We can’t control that, so we just tried to keep our focus on the game and what we can control,” said Thomas. “We did take too many penalties and we’ve got to learn from that. But we were able to kill them, so that’s a positive. We just try to take the positives and move on to the next game.”
The Panthers were granted one last power play gasp at 16:32 and called a timeout to plot the power play. They had Parks on the bench briefly and then for the final 48 seconds of the power play for one last two-man advantage. But Boudens swept a 140-footer into the empty net for a shortie to make it 5-2. Game over.
MacPherson was happy with the Panthers’ determination.
“The kids we have in our room...that’s the way they’ve been all year,” he said. “Every single one of them, they can barely fit their heart in their chest and they bring it every single night. I think the last 40 minutes, they battled unbelievably hard, and that’s to their credit.”
The V-Reds skated to a 4-1 win in the series opener Thursday night.
UNB has a 16-game winning streak including exhibitions. They haven’t lost a game since Nov. 27, a 7-4 loss to the Universite de Moncton Aigles Bleus.
Game 3 in the series shifts to Charlottetown Monday night.
Bill Hunt, The Daily Gleaner