The UPEI hockey Panthers played well enough to win both games here last week against Saint Mary’s and Acadia but, unfortunately, suffered a 4-3 overtime loss and a 7-5 defeat in a game tied late in the third period.
The Panthers continued their slide downwards with a 6-4 road loss to Moncton Blue Eagles on Wednesday night and the schedule handed them more bad news with the arrival of Gardner MacDougall's UNB Reds who are in town today at 7:00 at MacLauchlan Arena.
The Panthers (2-6-1) need points as they battle with Dal (2-5-1) and Moncton (1-6-2) for the final playoff spot in the seven-team conference. In the season opener, the Panthers spent 50 minutes in the penalty box and UNB scored three times on the power play while firing almost 50 shots at UPEI goaltender Matthew Mancina, who was spectacular in a losing cause.
In the two losses last week, the Panthers displayed a lot more offence than in recent years as indicated in the scoring race where Kameron Kielly (4-12, 16 points) leads the league in points while Darcy Ashley (4-7, 11), Marcus Power (6-4, 10), and Brent Andrews (2-6, 8) are among the leaders. The UPEI goaltending duo of Mancina and Matt Mahalak is as good as any in the league when they bring their A game but aside from Mancina's debut and Mahalak's sharp effort last Friday against Saint Mary’s, they've been good.
The Panthers are not great in their own end, and good doesn't get the job done. The duo have the lowest save percentage in the league but in fairness, their defence has problems in their own end and collectively the club is the most penalized in the league and have allowed 21 power-play goals already this season. The Panthers are a Jekyll and Hyde type club, entertaining yes, and a dangerous opponent because if all the pieces of their game fall into place, they could beat anyone on a given night.
MacDougall, who will some day get a shot at the National Hockey League, has built another championship-calibre club. His leading scorer is Morell's Stephen Anderson leads UNB and the conference in goals scored with nine already and his team is the highest scoring club in the loop.
On the court
The Island Storm continues to add size and talent to its roster for opening night Nov. 18 at Eastlink Centre against the St. John's entry in the National Basketball League of Canada. Andre Stringer, who played for Scott Morrison's Boston Celtics club in the NBA Development League, will be a huge addition to the Storm and will likely be a standout guard.
Last season, the Storm's only big man, six-foot-10 Mike Allison, was injured most of the year and the Storm couldn't contain the big opponents. This year, the Storm have crowd favourite Nick Evans, 6'11, Julius Barton, 6'10, Zack Valliere, 6'10, and Arnold Fripp, 6'8, along with newcomer all-Canadian UPEI guard Tyler Scott, which in my view makes this Storm team considerably stronger than last year. In other NBL news, the Cape Breton Highlanders have signed Luther Head, a former first-round draft pick of Houston Rockets who played four years with Houston of the NBA, and one each with Miami Heat, Sacramento and Indiana, averaging 22 minutes per game and eight points. A great addition to the league.
On the track
Live harness racing continues at 12:30 today at the city track with a 14-dash card that includes the $2,400 top class with the likes of Adkins Hanover, Rose Run Quest, Elm Grove Kaboom, Red Magician, Forever Paradise and Smiley Bayama from the rail plus the $2,250 Open Mares with Itsallabouthebass, Prettyndangerous, Ramblinglily, Brodys Leona and four others.
Maritime ASS winner Elektra Express was fourth in 1:53.4 in the $27,000 class last Monday at Yonkers for Mark MacDonald.
In the U.S. Breeders Crown last Saturday at Hoosier Park, Indiana, MacDonald drove Pure Country to an upset victory in the $250,000 Breeders Crown for aged mares. Jimmy Takter trains for Diamond Creek Farms.
At Woodbine last Saturday, James MacDonald drove Ellis Park to a sharp 1:50.1 victory in the $34,000 top class capping off a seven-win week.
We wish a speedy recovery to veteran horse owner John Thompson and to race handicapper and ex-junior hockey sniper with Sherwood-Parkdale Metros Gary “Prunes” Campbell who are patients at the QEH.
And sadly, we regret to report the passing of New Dominion resident Terry MacEachern, also a standout in his junior hockey days with the Metros and who later starred with the Charlottetown senior Islanders after a long battle with cancer.
Fred MacDonald's column appears in The Guardian every Saturday. He can be reached at email@example.com
The NFL heads into week nine and the playoff picture is still very cloudy. Let's take a look at a few games that are of interest. Washington (3-4) at Seattle (5-2): the Skins are injury riddled and QB Kirk Cousins has been sharp but in travelling to Seattle, they meet a hot QB in Russell Wilson who has been running for his life in most of his games. The Seahawks have added all-pro offensive tackle Duncan Brown and that's a big addition, so give up seven points and take Seattle at home.
Cincinnati (3-4) at Jacksonville (4-3): the Jags are the best defensive club in the NFL and they've just added talented defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, which is bad news for the Bengals QB Andy Dalton who were lucky to get past Indianapolis last week. Give up four points and take the Jags.
L.A. Rams (5-2) and New York Giants (1-6): the Rams are three-point road underdogs, and with a hot QB in Jared Goff and a great running back in Ted Gurley, they should easily cover against a sad-sack Giants club.
Kansas City (6-2) at Dallas (4-3): the Chiefs have a porous run defence and Cowboys’ Ezequiel Elliott will have a field day if he plays. He could start his six-game suspension tomorrow, and if he's out the Chiefs can win. If EE plays, bet the Cowboys in what is an even money bet.
Baltimore (4-4) at Tennessee (4-3): two of Tennessee's wins came vs. Cleveland and Indy, plus QB Marcus Mariota is not 100 per cent healthy. The Ravens are coming off a 40-0 road win, and this is a road dog (+4) that should win. As always, pay the mortgage first, the picks are for fun.