The UPEI Panthers know they need to be better and are taking the steps to try and get there.
The Panthers have made key additions to its staff for the upcoming season as it prepares to host the U Sports national championship in 2019 and 2020. It includes going deeper into video, sport psychology, strength, conditioning and nutrition.
“We’re trying to give them as (many) tools as possible,” head coach Bruce Donaldson said.
When assistant coaches Mary Jane Roper and Shannon MacAulay were unable to return this season, Donaldson decided to do an in-depth review of the program as he prepared to enter his 14th season with the Panthers.
“We have the privilege of hosting the nationals, so we want to be prepared, both mentally and physically, as best we can,” he said. “We’re not interested in just hosting a first-class tournament, we want to go there with the intention that whatever team plays against us, they’ll know they’re in for a game and I think this is going to help.”
The Panthers have added Ashlyn Somers and Jamie MacIntyre as assistant coaches while assistant Lance Jones has moved from focusing on the forwards to the defence. Donaldson said it wants to be able to transition from its own zone to offence quicker.
MacIntyre, who Donaldson coached in atom and peewee, was Hockey P.E.I. coach of the year for his work with the Mid-Isle Matrix in leading them to the midget AAA championship. The former Truro Bearcat and P.E.I. Rocket centre will work on skill development and go deeper into video work with the players.
“Video is a great teaching tool because it doesn't hide anything,” Donaldson said.
Somers played four years for the Mount Allison Mounties and graduated with a bachelor of commerce degree with a minor in fine arts. She received the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) most sportsmanlike player award in 2012 and 2013 – her final two seasons with the Mounties.
The Murray River native began coaching after her university career and she led the Kings County Kings midget squad last season.
The Panthers went 7-10-7 to finish sixth in the seven-team AUS in 2017-18. They got swept in the best-of-three opening round of the playoffs by the St. Thomas Tommies.
They have announced three forwards, a defenceman and a goalie to the roster with more to come while others are hoping to crack the lineup as walk-ons. Donaldson had an honest conversation with his club at the end of the year and acknowledged changes were coming to the dressing room.
He is expecting about 35 players in camp competing for between 23 and 25 roster spots.
“I think we have a group of girls that are very excited about this opportunity,” Donaldson said.
Players will start to arrive in mid-August with move-in day on campus slated for Sept. 1. The Panthers will have their first dry-land activity the following day before hitting the ice on Sept. 3.
Donaldson said they have put together a busy September and October for the team with eight exhibition games (the most in the program’s history) in order to get players into games and see how they might fit in the program.
Jones will be heading to Calgary in September in the hopes of landing a couple early recruits for the 2019-20 season.
“We not going to have a lot of openings, but we will clearly be looking for one or two of the very best that we can find,” Donaldson said. “Hopefully, with hosting the nationals, that will help in the process.”
A look at the UPEI Panthers women’s hockey staff for the upcoming 2018-19 season.
Head coach - Bruce Donaldson.
Lance Jones (focusing on defence).
Ashlyn Somers (focusing on forwards).
Jamie MacIntyre (focusing on skill development and analytics).
Jamie Blanchard (goalie coach).
Manager, Donnie MacFadyen.
Dany MacDonald, UPEI chairman of applied human sciences, sport psychology coach.
Kris MacPhee, co-owner of Synergy Fitness and Nutrition, strength and conditioning coach.
Melissa Rossiter, UPEI associated professor, nutrition coach.
Marshall Mayne, video coach.