The UPEI Panthers set goals before the regular season began in the fall.
They included making the Atlantic University Sport men’s hockey post-season and hosting Game 1 of the playoffs.
“We achieved those two goals and there was a reason for both,” head coach Forbes MacPherson said. “Hopefully we can take advantage of that home ice.”
UPEI (15-12-3) finished fourth in the standings and will play fifth-place Moncton (14-12-4) in the opening round of the playoffs. Third-place St. FX and sixth-place Acadia play in the other semifinal while UNB and Saint Mary’s get the first-round byes.
The first-round series are best-of-three affairs. UPEI will host the Aigles Bleus Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the opener.
The Panthers have witnessed the importance of home ice the past two years, losing Games 1 and 3 in Halifax while defeating Saint Mary’s in Game 2 both years.
“It has proved to be very beneficial for them,” MacPherson said. “If the series was to go three games, you get that slight advantage of just having two of the games in your own building.”
Three years ago, UPEI won the opener at Acadia and then eliminated the Axemen on Marcus Power’s overtime goal in Game 2.
After a 30-game regular season, the playoffs are near and the buzz is building within the team.
“Everybody is excited,” MacPherson said. “(This is) what everybody works toward. . .
“It’s nice to finish off the regular season on a strong note and get geared up for the playoffs.”
Sam Aulie and Gabe Guertler each had a goal and an assist Saturday to lead the Panthers to a 4-1 victory over the St. FX X-Men to close out the regular season.
Captain Brent Andrews and rookie defenceman Doug Blaisdell also scored while Kameron Kielly had a pair of assists to give him 43 points in 30 games this season. Cody Payne, Beau McCue and Owen Headrick each chipped in one assist.
“Beau looked really good. He looked really strong,” MacPherson said, noting McCue was returning to action this week following a shoulder injury.
Daniel Robertson from Holden Cook and Adam Laishram replied for St. FX.
Simon Hofley made 24 saves for the victory while Chase Marchand stopped 48 shots in the loss.
After a scoreless first period, UPEI took a 2-1 lead to the third during alumni weekend. The Panthers had its largest number of participants in the alumni games while Joel Ward had his banner re-raised to the rafters at MacLauchlan Arena.
“It brought a lot of great energy to the program,” MacPherson said, “and hopefully we’ll . . . carry (that) into (Game 1).”
The Panthers have a few bumps and bruises, but no major injuries.
A look at the UPEI Panthers men’s hockey playoff schedule with the Universite de Moncton Aigles Bleus.
7 p.m. – Moncton at UPEI.
7 p.m. – UPEI at Moncton.
7 p.m. – Moncton at UPEI.
* If necessary