CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – It hasn’t been a great season for the big three UPEI winter sports program but that could change this weekend it what could be called a make or break portion of the Atlantic University Sports regular season.
The men’s hockey Panthers conclude their two-game trip to Nova Scotia tonight when they meet the pesky Dal Tigers in Halifax in a game that has post-season implications. The Tigers upset the Panthers here on the Island last week, which tightens the race between UPEI, Dal and Moncton for the last two playoff spots. A Panthers win would go a long way in locking a post-season spot, a loss and it’s panic time.
On the basketball front, little was expected of the men’s Panther team but the 0-8 record is not what I had in mind.
They are better than this record and will break into the win column somewhere during the second half but maybe not tonight in the second of two against Saint Mary’s.
The lady Panthers have disappointed with a 3-5 record and with standouts like Carolina Del Santo, Jenna Mae Ellsworth, Reese Baxendale, Jane McLaughlin and Kiera Rigby, I believe this team will challenge for divisional honours.
They also meet Saint Mary’s in the second of two here at 6 p.m. tonight and it’s a game that should tell us if they’re for real or not.
The Island Storm is back on the Island Sunday at 2 p.m. to host the Saint John Riptide in an important National Basketball League of Canada contest.
The loss of Marcus Bell to the Mexican pro league and the injury to centre Meshack Lufile, who looked great in his brief debut, has hurt the local club. They have landed six-foot-eight Travis Elliott to fill the big boy role and all reports are he has looked good in practice. The Storm has loads of talent in Andre Stringer, Du’Vaughn Maxwell, Franklin Session, Chis Johnson and Tyler Scott, but in this league, where all the teams are tightly bunched, staying healthy means almost as much as talent.
The Sunday afternoon game is also teacher appreciation night with a free ticket to a teacher for an adult bowl seat in what looks like a playoff-type game.
Live harness racing continues today at 12:30 p.m. at the city track with a 13-dash card. The $2,400 feature goes in Race 9 and it has, from the rail out, Drivingthedragon, Smiley Bayama, Woggy Rocks, Czar Seelster and Rose Run Quest.
Trace Tetrick won the drivers challenge at Miami Valley racetrack earlier this week, winning the last three races in Tuesday’s championship round. James MacDonald was 10th after Day 1 in the 30-driver competition and missed out on advancing with a longshot in his final race on Monday.
At Woodbine tonight, James is aboard Jens Shark in the $27,000 feature that includes Nirvana Seelster, American Virgin and four others. Kevin Harvey’s Traces of Purple is in the $18,000 opener while Maritime-connected His Boy Elroy and Physicallyinclined are also in to go. Mark MacDonald is on holidays in San Diego and should be back in action at Yonkers next week.
The NFL Divisional playoffs are set for today and Sunday and there’s not much to choose between any of the teams.
Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles – Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has been sharp down the stretch and Atlanta has a solid run defence, allowing less than 80 yards a game, and an explosive receiver in Julio Jones. The Eagles are at 23 per cent in third down efficiency since the injury to QB Carson Wentz and that’s not good enough in the playoffs. I see an upset and an Atlanta win.
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots – This game is a lot closer than one might expect. The Belichick-Brady- Kraft incident may play a factor in this one and don’t forget at age 40, Tom Brady could have an off day. The Titans have a top QB in Marcus Mariota and he’s mobile and talented. On wagering front, betting against the Patriots and Belichick at home is not for me and it shouldn’t be for you.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers – This should be a nail-biter. The Jags intercepted Ben Roethlisberger five times in an early season rout of the Steelers but I don’t think that can happen this time. The key to this game is the availability of all-pro Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, who suffered a calf injury and has not played for three weeks. Brown is a game changer and if he is 100 per cent, I gotta love the Steelers. If he doesn’t play this could be an upset.
New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings – There’s a lot of support for the Saints veteran QB Drew Brees, who would love another Super Bowl on his resume. The Saints have an explosive running game in Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, but the Vikings are at home, have a tough defensive club and a rags-to-riches QB story in Case Keenum, who is in the running for league MVP. My heart says Brees but my head tells me bet the Vikings.
Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.