Keith Getson scored the series-clinching goal in double overtime Friday in a community he spent 4 ½ seasons of his junior hockey career.
The 21-year-old Bridgewater, N.S., native scored 10:54 into the second overtime as the Saint Mary’s Huskies defeated the UPEI Panthers 4-3 to sweep the best-of-three Atlantic University Sport quarter-final. They will play the Acadia Axemen in the semifinal.
Getson was drafted and played the majority of his major junior days for the Charlottetown Islanders before finishing his career close to home, playing in the Memorial Cup with the Halifax Mooseheads in 2019.
“It’s unbelievable for me, honestly,” Getson said. “I have a really soft spot in my heart for P.E.I., so being able to score this goal over here, it’s hard to put into words because this place does mean a lot to me.”
It was a different feeling down the hall at MacLauchlan Arena where the Panthers season came to an abrupt end.
“The boys battled hard,” said Chad Labelle, the only fifth-year Panther. “We did everything we could and it just comes down to one bounce or a few seconds of the clock that just didn't go our way.”
The Panthers fought adversity all season. Some guys did not return this season as expected and some of those that did come back fought injuries during the campaign.
UPEI pushed for a playoff spot, earned it and then had a chance to win Game 1. They tied it in the final minute only to lose with 3.2 seconds to play. They had a chance Friday to force Game 3, but it wasn’t to be.
“It’s just heartbreaking. I think that’s the only word for it,” said centre Filip Rydstrom. “It just sucks.”
The game was tied 1-1 after the first period while the Panthers, playing to extend their season, took a 3-1 lead to the third period.
Saint Mary’s rookie Mitchell Balmas, another former Islander, scored 1:21 into the third and captain Anthony Repaci tied it three minutes later with his second of the night.
Balmas returned earlier than anticipated from a knee injury and was a threat all night, ringing the iron at least twice.
“There wasn't much holding him back,” Huskies head coach Trevor Stienburg said.
Sam Dunn came off the wall in double overtime and found Getson, who poked the puck five-hole past UPEI goalie Matthew Mancina to end the series.
The goal came after Saint Mary’s goalie Eric Brassard stopped Jesse Sutton in the slot to preserve the tie.
“That was a massive save. You just look at that (play), we could be heading right back to Halifax for Game 3 now,” Getson said. “Brass is always a brick wall in there for us, we can always count on him and he played amazing tonight.”
Stephen Johnson had two assists while Balmas and Dunn each contributed one.
Sutton, Kameron Kielly and Drake Pilon scored for the Panthers with assists going to T.J. Shea, Darian Pilon and Troy Lajeunesse.
Brassard, who also played junior in Charlottetown, stopped 32 shots for the victory while Mancina stopped 45 shots in just under 81 minutes.
“Their goalie played unbelievable tonight,” Getson said. “Both teams played amazing. You have to give UPEI credit, they stuck in with us and their compete level is unbelievable.”
Moncton defeated St. FX 4-2 to sweep the other quarter-final and will play top-ranked UNB in the semifinal.