Basketball Panthers get to play in front of family, friends

Jason Malloy
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UPEI Panthers guard Candace Smith, left, shields the ball from teammate Katie Donahoe during Wednesday night’s practice.

It will be a homecoming tonight for four players, three coaches and a manager as the UPEI Panthers

basketball teams visit Wolfville, N.S.

The Panthers play Acadia at 6 (women) and 8 (men) p.m. in Atlantic University Sport (AUS) action.

Candace Smith, a guard with the Panthers women’s team, and men’s Panthers players Ellis Ffrench, Joe Kendrick, Lorenzo Parker, coaches Tim Kendrick and Marvin Rhyno and manager Greg Moore are all from Kings County, N.S., while men’s assistant coach Lonnie States is from nearby Windsor, N.S.

“It’s something we can all enjoy, going back and hopefully putting on a  good show and getting a couple of good wins,” Ffrench said.

It’s not going to be easy. The Axemen lead the conference at 7-2 and have a four-point advantage over the Panthers (5-5), who are tied for second with UNB and Saint Mary’s.

“We’re up to the challenge,” Ffrench said. “We played them pretty close a couple of times now and we’re confident in our

ability.”

Coach Kendrick said going home is good for both programs.

“Our guys would have grown up cheering for Acadia and grown up being at the gym shooting,” he said. “Acadia loves it because the place is full. . . There will be a large UPEI section there, I think.”

The Axemen are ranked ninth in the country and have a stable of top-end talent.

“They’re a very good team and they deserve to be in the top 10 in the country,” Kendrick said. “We have to make sure we play the way we have been playing.”

The Panthers started the season with four straight losses, including two to an Axemen team missing key pieces during the opening weekend in November.

The Panthers believe they have turned the corner and are looking forward to this weekend’s challenge.

“From the start of the season we had high expectations,” said Ffrench, the team’s starting point guard. “As good as I feel like we are playing now, I think we’re finally . . . where we thought we should be.”

 

Women’s basketball

The Panthers look to snap a four-game losing streak tonight in women’s basketball.

The Panthers are 4-6 while the Axewomen are

3-6.

“Hopefully we can get back on that winning track,” said coach Greg Gould.

The Panthers swept the Axewomen to open the season on Nov. 8 and 9 in Charlottetown.

“They’re playing pretty well right now,” Gould said of Acadia. “They have a lot of splits against teams we’ve played against and they always seem to be tough in Acadia.

“We’re going to have to have our A game.”

The Axewomen have a big front court and play a lot of zone. The Panthers will look to pressure the ball and score in transition.

“When we get into the half court, we’re going to have to execute our offence and we’re going to have to make some shots.”

The game will mark Smith’s first game back at home.

“She’s a pretty experienced player,” Gould said of the freshman.

“If anything I expect her probably to play better at home. I think she’ll be a little more fired up.”

 

Men’s hockey

The Panthers (8-7-2) travel to Antigonish, N.S., tonight to play the St. F.X. X-Men

(9-8-1).

“Anytime you jump on a bus and head to Antigonish and have to play St. F.X. you’re going to have your hands full,” coach Forbes MacPherson said Thursday.

Game time is 7 p.m.

The Panthers are healthy for the most part and there’s a chance defenceman Brock Beukeboom returns to the lineup tonight.

 

Women’s hockey

The Panthers host Moncton tonight in a matchup of the AUS women’s hockey conference’s lowest scoring teams.

Game time is 7 p.m.

“We have to be ready to skate right from the get-go because they’re a very good skating team and they work really hard at both ends of the ice,” said coach Bruce Donaldson.

Moncton (7-8-1) is averaging two goals a game while UPEI (6-9) is notching 1.87 goals per game.

Special teams could also play a factor as Moncton has the second best power play in the league at 18.7 per cent while UPEI (10.9 per cent) has the second-worst power play.

The Panthers spent a lot of time during Thursday’s practice working on its own power play.

Marie-Soleil Deschenes gets the start for the Panthers.

UPEI won 3-1 on Nov. 24 in Moncton.

***

A look at the UPEI Panthers varsity teams weekend schedule:

Tonight

Women’s basketball

6 p.m. – UPEI at Acadia

Men’s hockey

7 p.m. – UPEI at St. F.X.

Women’s hockey

7 p.m. – Moncton at UPEI

Men’s basketball

8 p.m. – UPEI at Acadia

———

Saturday

Women’s hockey

2 p.m. – Dalhousie at UPEI

Women’s basketball

6 p.m. – UPEI at Acadia

Men’s hockey

7 p.m. – UPEI at Saint Mary’s

Men’s basketball

8 p.m. – UPEI at Acadia

All games are webcast on AUStv (http://austv.ca/)

Organizations: UPEI Panthers, Atlantic University Sport

Geographic location: Acadia, Saint Mary, Wolfville Kings Windsor Moncton Antigonish Charlottetown

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