Marcus Power scored 4:45 into overtime Friday to send the UPEI Panthers to the second round of the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) men's hockey playoffs for the first time since 2012-13.
Nelson Armstrong's point shot bounced off Acadia Axemen goalie Brandon Glover's pad to Power, who potted the rebound for a 4-3 win and a 2-0 quarter-final victory in front of 1,214 people at MacLauchlan Arena.
"It was crazy," said Power, a sophomore forward brought in for his offensive acumen. "I just turned around (and) everyone's going nuts, jumping, fans going crazy. It was probably the biggest goal of my life."
Power's first series-clinching goal capped off a playoff series many thought the Panthers had little chance to win, despite a 1-1-1-1 record against an Axemen team ranked No. 1 in Canada a few weeks ago.
"I think we matched up well against Acadia all year and I thought we had outstanding goaltending. (Mavric Parks) was there for us," Power said. "All the lines were clicking (and) we had secondary scoring."
The win was special for third-year defenceman Casey Babineau.
"It's been a long time coming; first time I won a series in my time here," he said. "It's a great feeling to win."
He was hurt in Game 1 Wednesday in Wolfville, N.S., when he was hit from behind. He wasn't cleared to return to Wednesday's game but was given the OK on Thursday to play in Game 2. He said being back on the bench when the game-winning goal was scored was special.
"There's a lot of belief in the room," he said outside the dressing room.
UPEI has had to deal players deciding not come to the university late in the summer while another left early in the fall. The team was hit hard by injuries to key players and dressed 14 skaters for a game at Acadia in the regular season.
However, the coaching staff hasn't used it as a crutch, and the players have bought in to the system the staff has instituted.
"We're proud with the way their battling, the adversity they've gone through and they're just being rewarded right now," coach Forbes MacPherson said.
UPEI held period leads of 2-1 and 3-2. Kyle Farrell tied it with 6:25 left in the third period.
The Panthers will play the top-ranked UNB Varsity Reds in the best-of-five second round. A schedule has not been released.
UPEI knows most people will write them off again in the upcoming series.
"We like that," Power said. "They have pressure to win, we don't."
But it doesn't mean the Panthers are giving up. The workman-like effort will need to continue with contributions coming from up and down the lineup.
"We're not satisfied, just winning one round, we obviously want to keep going," Power said.
A look at Friday's Atlantic University Sport men's hockey game between the UPEI Panthers and Acadia Axemen.
Acadia - 3.
UPEI - 4 OT.
Acadia - Chance Braid, Brett Cote and Kyle Farrell.
UPEI - Brent Andrews, Sam Aulie, Ryan MacKinnon and Marcus Power.
Acadia - Geoff Schemitsch, Remy Giftopoulos and Boston Leier.
UPEI - Cole MacMillan 2, Sam Aulie, Brent Andrews, Ryan MacKinnon, Marcus Power, Nelson Armstrong and Chad Labelle.
Acadia - Brandon Glover, 27 saves on 31 shots.
UPEI - Mavric Parks, 28 saves on 31 shots.
Acadia - 0-for-1.
UPEI - 1-for-3.