CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Marcus Power scored at even strength, on the power play and on a shorthanded breakaway to help pace the UPEI Panthers to a 5-1 victory over the Acadia Axemen Friday in Atlantic University Sport hockey.
The St. John’s, N.L., native said it was his first hat trick since bantam or midget and gave credit to his teammates for finding him, including defenceman Ryan MacKinnon, who set up a pair of his markers.
“I got lucky in my mind,” he said.
After scoring two in the second period, Power admitted a potential third was in the back of his mind, but knew he had to play his role and ensure the team kept the lead. Head coach Forbes MacPherson had him on the ice to kill a penalty with five minutes to play in the second period and UPEI holding a 4-1 lead.
“You don't want to kind of cheat offensively,” Power said. “I saw the puck going to Ryan and I just took off. He ended up hitting me and I ended up squeaking it through (the goalie’s) legs.”
The Panthers are in a battle for a playoff berth, and the two points are key as Dalhousie knocked off Moncton 4-0 on Friday. One of those three teams will not make the post-season. UPEI remains two points up on Dalhousie with a game in hand on the Tigers.
UPEI has not won back-to-back games since defeating Moncton on Oct. 7 and 13.
“That’s the weak part of our game – is being consistent,” Power said. “We have to bring it again tomorrow night.”
It’s a message echoed by MacPherson.
“Some guys played some of their best hockey in a while tonight,” he said. “That tells me two things: how well they can play, but how inconsistent they’ve been.”
Acadia led 1-0 after the first period on Stephen Harper’s goal 3:17 in to the game. The Panthers had outshot the Axemen 10-4. They continued to drive play in the second, outshooting the Axemen 15-6 and cashing in on five of those shots to take a 5-1 lead to the third.
MacPherson said in recent games the Panthers have been able to put back-to-back good shifts together but would lose the third shift. Friday they were able to sustain and build on the energy the first two shifts provided.
“Tonight I felt we got past that hump; we broke through that barrier,” he said. “All of a sudden you could just feel the energy growing on the bench.”
Power tied it two minutes in to the second and Riley Whittingham scored about three minutes later, but it took a conference among the referees to declare the puck went in because of how quickly the puck exited the net.
Cody Payne made it 3-1 six minutes into the middle frame when he shot on a two-on-one. Power’s power-play tally 13 minutes in gave them the insurance goal and chased Acadia starter Robert Steeves.
The game was a feisty affair with many big hits and pushing and shoving after the whistle. Acadia lost a couple of players in the first few minutes of the game due to injuries, and Remy Giftopoulos was handed a game misconduct for checking to the head.
Panthers defenceman Bobby Zinkan left the game and didn't return while forward Kameron Kielly left after a second-period hit but returned to play.
A look at Friday’s Atlantic University Sport men’s hockey game between the UPEI Panthers and the Acadia Axemen at MacLauchlan Arena.
Acadia – 1.
UPEI – 5.
Acadia – Stephen Harper.
UPEI – Marcus Power 3, Riley Whittingham and Cody Payne.
Acadia – Marc McNulty.
UPEI – Ryan MacKinnon 2, Darcy Ashley 2, Tanner McCabe, R.T. Rice, Kameron Kielly, Nathan Yetman and Gabe Guertler.
Acadia – Robert Steeves, 18 saves on 22 shots in 33:12; Dawson Carty, eight saves on nine shots.
UPEI – Matt Mahalak, 20 saves on 21 shots.
Acadia – 0-for-2.
UPEI – 1-for-9.
Acadia – 15-6-2.
UPEI – 6-16-1.
Up next – The Panthers host the Saint Mary’s Huskies (15-7-1) tonight at 7 p.m. in alumni day game.