CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The UPEI Panthers scored three goals in five and a half minutes of the first period Friday to knock off the Atlantic University Sports (AUS) men’s hockey conference’s hottest team.
The Panthers defeated the Dalhousie Tigers 6-3 to clinch fifth place in the standings with one game to go in the regular season. The Tigers, who will finish sixth in the conference, had won five straight games.
“I think everybody knew the magnitude of that game, just in terms of the standings and positions heading into playoffs,” said Panthers forward Kameron Kielly. “Beating a team, who won five in a row in this league, we’ll take it.”
Sam Aulie scored 8:48 into the first period. Kielly and Beau McCue added power-play goals at 11:30 and 13:18, respectively.
“Everybody knows (Corbin) Boes is one of the best goalies in Canada, and we were fortunate to get a couple by him early. And that ended up being the difference in the game,” Panthers head coach Forbes MacPherson said.
The Panthers will start the playoffs on the road Wednesday in Nova Scotia, but the site is still to be determined. If Acadia beats Moncton today, they will finish third and UPEI would play Saint Mary’s. A Moncton win would see UPEI play Acadia.
Riley Whittingham’s goal Friday with four minutes to play in the first made it 4-1 and the marker stood up as the game-winner.
“I’ve been getting a lot of chances lately, and it feels good to get one going off their guy and in,” he said. “I’ll take every bounce I can get. Every goal counts.”
Alex Pawelczyk scored his second of the game 2:34 into the second period to make it 4-2, but the Panthers stemmed the momentum and went to the third up two.
Shifts after a goal are key, Whittingham said.
“We just (had) to get the puck back in their zone, put the work boots on and keep going,” he said.
Panthers forward Cody Payne scored 4:27 into the third, but Myles McGurty scored on the power play to get Dalhousie back to within two, midway through the final frame.
Marcus Power rounded out the scoring with an empty net goal with 51 seconds remaining.
Kielly ended the night with a goal and three assists to give him 40 points in 29 games this season.
“Teammates made great plays tonight, (and I got) a couple good bounces.”
He said it was nice to get a good team win on senior night as six veterans (captain Brent Andrews, Darcy Ashley, Marcus Power Ryan MacKinnon, Matt Mahalak and Connor Wilkinson) were honoured before the game.
McCue also added a pair of assists while Olivier Arseneau, Payne, Gabe Guertler and MacKinnon each had one.
Mahalak made 16 saves for the win while Boes stopped 32 shots in the loss.
The Panthers conclude the regular season today with a 7 p.m. home game against the St. FX X-Men at Eastlink Centre as part of the Hockey Day in P.E.I. initiative.
“I’m excited,” said Kielly, who along with MacKinnon, Filip Rydstrom and Nathan Yetman played in the building as members of the P.E.I. Rocket or the Charlottetown Islanders. “Me and Ry are definitely exited to get back in, just like old times.”