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Panthers have lots of fight left

UNB Varsity Reds forward Mark Simpson fires a shot towards the UPEI goal while being defended by Kameron Kielly Friday in Fredericton, N.B., during Game 2 of the Atlantic University Sport semifinal. James West Photography
UNB Varsity Reds forward Mark Simpson fires a shot towards the UPEI goal while being defended by Kameron Kielly Friday in Fredericton, N.B., during Game 2 of the Atlantic University Sport semifinal. James West Photography - Contributed

UPEI won’t roll over despite 0-2 deficit to UNB with Game 3 tonight at MacLauchlan Arena

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Brent Andrews knows anything is possible despite the large challenge a hockey team might face during the playoffs.

The Hunter River native was part of the Halifax Mooseheads squad that faced a 3-0 deficit against the Quebec Remparts in the second round of the 2012 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs. They won the next four games, three of them by one goal, including the clincher in overtime, to complete the comeback.

“We certainly had the odds stacked against us,” Andrews said Sunday. “To come back is a pretty special thing.”

He and his current UPEI Panthers teammates are attempting to do something similar starting tonight when they host the top-ranked UNB Varsity Reds. Game 3 of the Atlantic University Sport semifinal is slated for a 7 p.m. start at MacLauchlan Arena.

The Reds hold a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series after winning two close games in Fredericton, N.B., on Thursday and Friday.

“There’s absolutely nobody in our room that thinks we’re out of it,” said Andrews, the Panthers captain. “We were right there for those two games over in Fredericton. We’re not rolling over by any means.”

A key for the Panthers is not to look at the big picture of what they have to accomplish but stay in the moment and take care of their job each shift they are on the ice. It’s not about winning nine periods, but one.

Head coach Forbes MacPherson said Andrews’ message is an important one and shows the value the leader has had on the program during his five seasons at UPEI.

The Panthers coaching staff designed a game plan to give the team a chance at being victorious on the road. They executed it but were unable to secure the victories. Despite being winless, the team feels good about how it is playing.

“There’s some things we really like about the way we are playing and the effort our group is putting forth,” MacPherson said. “There’s a lot to build on there. This isn’t a moment where we’re down 2-0 and we have to go back to the drawing board. . .

“We’re a break or two away from being even in this series or perhaps even better.”

Andrews said the team gained confidence from the first two games.

“We know that we can play with them and now that we’re in our own barn, it’s just going to make us that much more confident,” he said.

While some buildings in the conference provide the home team with a tactical advantage due to things like their dimensions, MacLauchlan Arena is not one of them. The Panthers do get an emotional boost from skating at home.

“There’s no question our players take a lot of pride playing in that arena, playing on campus, playing in front of our fans and our alumni,” MacPherson said.

Matthew Mancina has stopped 97 of the 102 shots he has faced in the series. He will get the call again tonight. MacPherson said the Panthers are a bit banged up, but the squad has a high grit component and the players will be ready to go.


Need to know

A look at the UNB-UPEI men’s hockey semifinal.

Series recap

Feb. 21 Result

UNB 3 UPEI 1

Feb. 22 Result

UNB 2 UPEI 1 OT

Today’s Game

UNB at UPEI, 7 p.m.

Tuesday’s Game (if necessary)

UNB at UPEI, 7 p.m.

Thursday’s Game (if necessary)

UPEI at UNB, 7 p.m.

UPEI captain Brent Andrews said: “We don't want to change too much. We don't want to reinvent the wheel or anything. We’re happy with our game plan and we just have to keep building on it.”

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