CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Changes are coming for the roster of the UPEI Panthers women’s hockey team.
Head coach Bruce Donaldson said he had a “very transparent” meeting with his squad on Wednesday as the team prepares for an important off-season before it hosts the U Sports nationals in 2019 and 2020.
“I stood in front of all you at one point and said, ‘I want you to come and play’, but we’re a sixth-place team that in 12 months is going to be hosting the nationals, so I have to change things,” Donaldson said he told the team. “The dressing room will look different.”
He acknowledged it was a tough conversation but one that was needed. He said he thinks the world of each and every one of his players, but the team needs to be better next season.
“We have to figure it out quickly,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s about trying to become as competitive as possible at the national level in a very short period of time.”
UPEI, which loses four players from this year’s squad, has already announced four players are joining the team in September, and Donaldson said he’s still in discussions with others.
The bench boss said he will have individual meetings with returning players next week and provide them with things they need to work on during the off-season in order to put themselves in the best position to make the club in the fall.
The Panthers went 7-10-7 to finish sixth in the seven-team Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference in 2017-18. They got swept in the best-of-three opening round of the playoffs by the St. Thomas Tommies.
The Panthers are looking to improve its offence after losing seven games in overtime. Score another goal in regulation in a handful of those games and the team finishes above .500.
“We’re a goal away from moving from sixth to third,” he said.
Donaldson recently attended the nationals in London, Ont., in order to get a sense of the set up but also to see the level of play. One thing he noticed was the top-four defence corps for each of the teams in the medal games was great. It reminded him of the Panthers only AUS title in 2012 when it received good goaltending and in Donaldson’s opinion had the best top-four defence unit in the conference.