Women’s hockey Panthers host Dalhousie today

Charles Reid creid@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 7, 2017

UPEI Panthers logo

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – It’s back to work for the UPEI Panthers women’s hockey team after a six-week break for exams and Christmas.

The Panthers (9-5) host the Dalhousie Tigers (2-11-1) today at 3 p.m. in Atlantic University Sport (AUS) women’s hockey action at MacLauchlan Arena.

After a week of practice, head coach Bruce Donaldson said he is impressed with the shape of his charges.

“They look pretty good,” said Donaldson. “We did some fitness testing before the break and when they came back to make sure they were staying in shape.”

Dalhousie looks like we did last year, just one goal short of winning more games, every game very competitive. With 10 games left, you can’t take anybody lightly. Bruce Donaldson, UPEI Panthers women’s hockey head coach, on facing last-place Dalhousie today at home.

The break for Donaldson has two sides.

On one hand, the players are student-athletes, he said, and need the time to study and write exams.

On the other hand, the break can hinder momentum gained in the first half of the season. UPEI is one of those teams after it won nine of its 14 games and wound up in third place as the break arrived.

To be fair, Donaldson eased the team back into the groove with fundamentals before re-routing their focus to the finer parts of the game.

“The first part is just getting them back to execution with speed and pace, then later (in the week) you start working on specialty teams like penalty kill and power play. The key is getting them back into the mindset of hockey,” said Donaldson. “It’s really two seasons. You get the first one in and set up the second.”

UPEI’s good start has been a team affair.

The top scorers are Sydnee Baker and Cornelia Gibb, each with three goals and seven points. Lindsay Johnston is third with six points.

Goalie Marie-Soleil Deschenes is second overall in the AUS in wins with six, third in save percentage (.944) and fifth in goals-against average (GAA) at 1.70, while goalie-mate Megan Sullivan is seventh in GAA (2.28) and save percentage (.921).

Donaldson would like to see more of the same so the Panthers can return to playoffs after missing the post-season last year.

“We’ve played with better consistency. That has to continue. We were lucky enough to have good depth. That was nice,” he said.

The team is without forward Ashtyn Bartlett, who fell into a coma earlier in the week and was transported to hospital in Halifax.  She regained consciousness late Thursday and the outlook in positive.

Donaldson said doctors are pointing to a viral infection as the cause. The Durham Bridge, N.B., native remains in hospital for more testing.

The Panthers host fourth-place St. FX (8-5) Sunday at 2 p.m.