CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Kelly Clements always wanted to be a UPEI Panther.
The 17-year-old forward from High Bank will get that opportunity this fall after committing to the Panthers for the 2018-19 women’s hockey season.
“I’m very proud of where I come from – P.E.I. pride always – and my sister (Ally) plays here this year as well, so that’s a big thrill for me,” Clements said.
Ally is a rookie this season with the Panthers while Kelly is playing midget AAA with the Kings County Kings girls’ team. The sisters visited the university together before making their decisions to become Panthers.
“We came in for a little meeting and we didn't know what was going to come out of that, but we ended up walking out of the rink as a package deal,” Kelly said. “It’s a very big thrill for both of us. Our families are very excited, too.”
Kelly, who is eyeing a law degree down the road, will see some familiar faces in her recruiting class.
Summerside’s Taylor Gillis and Charlottetown’s Parker McCabe have also committed to the Panthers.
Head coach Bruce Donaldson said it has been fun watching the three develop, and he is excited to watch them take the next step in Panther green.
“We really work hard to try to keep our best Island players committed to coming to play for UPEI,” he said. “In this case, I think we’ve hit a home run.”
Gillis, a 17-year-old forward with the Western Wind midget AAA girls squad, said academics played a big role in her decision to come to UPEI.
“It has a really good business program, and that is what I am going to take next year,” she said.
The offensive forward has played with and against Clements and McCabe in the past.
“I got to play with them at the Atlantic Challenge Cup, so I got to know them pretty well, so it should be fun,” she said.
McCabe is a 17-year-old goalie playing her first season at Appleby College in Oakville, Ont. She committed after getting home for the Christmas break but said a connection was made during the summer that helped her decide to join the Panthers.
“Speaking with the coaches and practising with some of the girls on the team in the summer (were part of the factors), and I really like the environment in the dressing room with the girls,” she said.
While enjoying her time in Oakville, McCabe is looking forward to being a Panther and studying sciences with a plan to pursue kinesiology.
“You always strive to go away, but once you go away you realize home’s not so bad,” she said.
“I think it’ll be a great feeling,” she said, of pulling the Panthers jersey on for her first game. “Growing up, you always want to play university hockey, and when you realize you do have the opportunity to play, it’s very exciting.”
The Panthers will lose fifth-year captain Emma Martin, and a couple of other players are expected to graduate and move on after this season.
The trio could play up to five years for the Panthers, and Clements didn't hesitate when asked what her goal is as she gets ready to begin her Atlantic University Sport (AUS) career.
“An AUS championship is definitely the biggest goal, and doing that with these girls would be the biggest thing,” she said.
Need to know
A look at the UPEI Panthers newest recruits for the 2018-19 women’s hockey season.
Position – Forward.
Hometown – High Bank.
Age – 17.
Team – Kings County Kings midget AAA.
Coach Bruce Donaldson said he sees Clements fitting right in with the physicality of the Atlantic University Sport hockey conference. “Kelly is a power forward. She’s got great size and plays with a lot of intensity,” he said. “She loves the rough and tumble.”
Position – Forward.
Hometown – Summerside.
Age – 17.
Team – Western Wind midget AAA.
Coach Bruce Donaldson said he sees her as an offensively gifted player. “In my opinion she is easily in the top two or three in Atlantic Canada in terms of offence,” he said. “You give her two opportunities, she’s going to score on one of them. She has proven herself time in and time out.”
Position – Goalie.
Hometown – Charlottetown.
Age – 17.
Team – Appleby College in Oakville, Ont.
Coach Bruce Donaldson said he has been impressed with her play during the past two Atlantic Challenge Cups. “In my personal opinion she was a large, large reason as to why Team P.E.I. ended up in the gold medal game both years,” he said. “She just doesn't give up.”