CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The UPEI Panthers withstood the Saint Mary’s Huskies early push Friday and lived to fight another day.
The men’s hockey Panthers defeated the Huskies 2-1 to even the best-of-three Atlantic University Sport (AUS) quarter-final 1-1. Game 3 is Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Halifax Forum.
“Best-out-of-three series, they wanted to end it tonight,” Panthers veteran defenceman Ryan MacKinnon said. “We did a great job, especially early on those two power plays. . ..
“You have to tip your hat off to the best penalty killer, (goalie Matthew) Mancina. Anything on net, he was smothering.”
The shots were 9-2 for Saint Mary’s early, but the rookie, who didn’t play much in the second half of the season, didn’t flinch.
“They got a lot of shots on me early, so I was able to get into the game,” he said. “That’s the first time we beat them this year, so that’s a huge confidence booster for us.”
MacKinnon got the Panthers on the board with their third shot of the period at 11:31. Kameron Kielly from Chad Labelle made it 2-0 with 5:31 left in the middle stanza.
Steven Shipley from Stephen Johnson scored midway through the third period and the Huskies continued to press for the equalizer.
Aaron Berisha had a wide-open shot late and Bronson Beaton had another glorious chance in the final minute, but he was stopped by Mancina.
“Anytime you can help the team, it’s great but I thought they did a really good job in front of me,” the goalie said. “I kicked out some rebounds, but they were there.”
Former Charlottetown Islanders goalie Eric Brassard made 17 saves in the loss.
Saint Mary’s was 0-for-5 on the power play while UPEI was 0-for-4.
Panthers captain Brent Andrews, returning from an injury, had a couple of good scoring chances and won a late faceoff. He was seen carrying a bucket of ice after the game.
His teammates weren’t surprised to see him back in the lineup on Friday.
“That just says everything about his character,” MacKinnon said. “Do or die tonight. It (didn’t) matter what was hurt for him, he was coming back, he was playing tonight. That's just the nature of that beast.”
Both teams have won on home ice, and now the series turns back to Halifax for the deciding game.
“Really, that’s all it’s been up until this point, two teams taking care of their home ice,” UPEI head coach Forbes MacPherson said.
It is the same scenario as a year ago, when the Panthers lost 4-3 in Game 3 at the Forum on Feb. 19. Hunter Garlent scored the winning goal with 32 seconds left after UPEI’s Marcus Power had tied the game with 2:42 remaining.
“That’s a sore spot for sure,” MacKinnon admitted when asked about last year’s Game 3. “We’re going over there with a mission (Sunday). That’s definitely going to be in the back of our heads. We owe them one.”