UPEI begins semifinal against UNB tonight in Fredericton
It's never easy to face the top club in the league on the road.
That's the situation awaiting the UPEI Panthers on Thursday night in Fredericton, where they'll kick off the second round of the Atlantic University Sport men's hockey playoffs against the UNB Varsity Reds.
Game 2 goes Friday night in Fredericton, with both matches starting at 7 p.m.
UPEI made it to the semifinals for the first time since 2016 after beating the Moncton Blue Eagles in two straight games.
UNB got a first-round bye after finishing atop the AUS with a 25-2-3 record in the regular season.
Panthers head coach Forbes MacPherson says a disciplined game plan will be important.
"We have to play a patient game. We have a game plan that we've put together with our group. We obviously feel good about it and we know that we're up against a very good team, but I think the key word is we remain patient with that game plan and show a lot of stick-to-it-iveness, and go over there with a positive attitude into the second round."
UPEI finished 20 points behind UNB in the regular season and lost all four games in the season series.
The Panthers had flashes of success against the Varsity Reds but lacked consistency, MacPherson said.
"We haven't been able to put it together for a full game and that's hurt us in our games against UNB, which is coached by Bedeque native Gardiner MacDougall. They're a very deep team, so they've given a lot of teams problems this year."
A good start will go a long way, he said.
As of Thursday, MacPherson hadn't made up his mind as to whether Simon Hofley or Matthew Mancina would start in net. Mancina stopped 49 of 51 shots against the Aigles Bleus.
"We feel that's a position of strength right now. Both goalies are feeling energized and confident and ready to go. We like our options there."
The series returns to Charlottetown on Monday for Game 3. A fourth game, if necessary, would go Tuesday night at home.
Tickets are available at the Eastlink Centre box office by calling 902-629-6624 or online at eastlinkcentrepei.com. They are $15 for adults and $5 for kids under 18.