It’s go time for the UPEI Panthers women’s hockey team.
The squad kicks off the new Atlantic University Sport season Friday in Moncton versus the Blue Eagles and fifth-year blue-liner Emma Martin is ready for her final season.
“Moncton is offensively very strong so we have to take care of our own end,” said Martin, the Panthers
new captain and Winsloe native. “I’ve approached this year with a very open mind. Having a leadership role you have to be ready for anything that comes your way.”
Game time is 7 p.m. against Moncton, which finished 8-12-4 last season. UPEI went 14-9-1 last year, but lost to Moncton in two games in the best-of-three quarter-final.
But the young Panthers returned many of the movers and shakers from last year like leading scorers Sydnee Baker (17 points), last year’s AUS rookie of the year, and Souris native Maria Clinton (13 points). And new additions like High Bank’s Ally Clements and Sophie Vandale from Winnipeg, Man., has Martin excited about the season.
“The team has a lot of skill… (the trick is) translating that onto the ice. Speed is one of our strengths. But we need to play more physical, win the battles along the boards. We’re pretty big, but we’re playing against a lot of big girls (in the AUS) so we need to hold our own.”
UPEI started well last year and by the Christmas break was a solid 9-6, so head coach Bruce Donaldson is aiming for similar results this year with his young group that includes 16 first or second-year players.
“Offensively, we’ll have to work hard for everything we get. We’re carrying nine D, one more than usual but they’re mobile, move the puck well and have maturity,” said Donaldson. “If we can replicate that early success we had last year we can hopefully have a good season.”
Though it won’t be easy playing against the likes of defending AUS champ Saint Mary’s, St. Thomas and St. F.X., and an emerging Dalhousie side.
“It’s going to be another tight, very competitive league. Saint Mary’s has most of its key players back, St. F.X. will be (tough). Dal has really made some strides this year,” he said. “Special teams will make the difference so playing 5-on-5 will be a key piece of (success) for us.”
And if the other squads have improved, Martin likes what she sees from the lines in front of her and she’s set to contribute to an often under-scoring offence, too.
“I definitely see that (our offence has improved). The forward lines are really clicking, the girls are coming up with ideas,” said Martin. “That’s always been a part of my game offensively defensive. Don’t be worried, skate with the puck sometimes, hold your own and add to (the offence).”
Megan Sullivan gets the start in the Panther goal Friday. Freshman Camille Scherger is the backup.
Assistant captains are forwards Lindsay Johnston, Emma Weatherbie and Rachel Colle, and d-man Madison Clarke.
The Panthers home-opener is Saturday versus Saint Mary’s. Game time is 7 p.m.
The Panthers men’s team (1-1) host Moncton (0-2-1) on Friday and play at UNB (3-0) on Saturday. Both games start at 7 p.m.
Roster for the 2017-18 UPEI Panthers women’s hockey team.
Goaltenders - Megan Sullivan, 4th year, Bathurst, N.B.; Camille Scherger 1st year, Lloydminster, Alta.
Defence - Sophie Vandale 1st year, Winnipeg, Man.; Breah MacEachern, 2nd year, Antigonish, N.S.; Madison Clarke, 4th year, Hilden, N.S.; Gabrielle Gray, 3rd year, Hilden, Sask.; Ally Clements, 1st year, High Bank; Emily March, 3rd year, Toronto, Ont.; Kristen MacIntyre, 2nd year, Sydney, N.S.; Caroline Daoust, 2rd year, Ile-Bizard, Que.; Emma Martin, 5th year, Winsloe.
Forwards - Alisha MacDonald, 2nd year, Summerside; Emma Weatherbie, 4th year, Charlottetown; Tyler Way, 1st year, London, Ont.; Ashtyn Bartlett, 3rd year, Durham Bridge, N.B.; Kaylee Dufresne, 2nd year, Orleans, Ont.; Shelby Foran, 1st year, Whitney, N.B.; Jessie Brown, 3rd year, Ancaster, Ont.; Rachel Colle, 3rd year, Toronto, Ont.; Lauren Clark, 1st year, Charlottetown; Cornelia Geib, 5th year, Calgary, N.B.; Lindsay Johnston, 4th year, Bowmanville, Ont.; Sydnee Baker, 2rd year, Chatham, Ont.; Maria Clinton, 2rd year, Souris; Leah Byrne, 1st year, Glace Bay, N.S.; Jenna Pellerin, 2nd year, Halifax, N.S.; Faith Steeves, 2nd year, Havelock, N.B.