The UPEI Panthers will be looking to feed off the energy in MacLauchlan Arena this weekend while honouring those who wore the jersey before them.
The men’s hockey team will host the Acadia Axemen tonight and Saint Mary’s Huskies on Saturday. Both games begin at 7 p.m.
Head coach Forbes MacPherson said the team marks this week on the calendar as soon as the Atlantic University Sport schedule is released.
“Nobody does alumni weekend or alumni night like UPEI and that’s a credit to the alumni,” MacPherson said. “We can very confidently stick our chest out and be proud of the alumni’s accomplishments but also their commitment to this night and to the program.”
There will be alumni games Saturday afternoon with a record 75 or so alumni taking part.
The 1984-85 Atlantic championship-winning squad, which was inducted into the UPEI Sports Hall of Fame in mid-November, will be recognized before Saturday’s 7 p.m. puck drop. A special banner will also be raised to the rafters in honour of all-time leading scorer Dave Shellington. He joins Joel Ward and Wilf MacDonald as the only Panther to receive the honour.
MacPherson said there’s a special bond between the alumni and existing players. While the team plays hard each time they pull the jersey on, there’s an extra bump of energy during alumni weekend.
“As much pride as each alum has from the time they were here, their pride is also a reflection of the current team’s effort,” MacPherson said. “Regardless of the outcome of the game, we want their chest to swell.”
The Panthers (8-12-3) are one of four teams fighting for one of the three remaining playoff spots while Acadia (17-7-1) and Saint Mary’s (14-11-0) have already clinched their spots.
UPEI has been banged up all year and only had 17 skaters on the ice for Wednesday’s practice. Exactly how many will dress for tonight’s game was not known as guys tried to get healthy enough for the weekend.
MacPherson said the team went through a similar situation a couple of years ago when injuries ravaged the roster.
“The best you can do is fight through it an everybody come together and become galvanized as a team,” he said.
MacPherson wants his plays to feed off the energy but stick to its game plan against two of of the conference’s top teams.
“It will be important for our guys to stay focused,” he said. “We still have a task at hand and that’s getting two points in the standings.”
It was this time last year, the Panthers quietly started talking about the possibility of hosting nationals. It is now a reality as the team has been awarded the hosting rights for 2021.
MacPherson already has six players committed for next year. They will be announced at a later time. Two of the players will not be true freshmen.
• Bleeding green: Dave Shellington is a UPEI Panther for life
A look at the men’s hockey rosters for Saturday’s UPEI green and white alumni games. They will take place at 4 p.m. at MacLauchlan Arena.
Coaches – Dave Shellington, Terry McKenna, Dave Reid, Rich Little, Mike Ready, Jamie Blanchard, Marc Gallant, Craig Jenkins, Wayne MacPhee, Ron Hennessey, Mark Gallant, Jason Malone and Gary Trainor.
Coaches – Ronnie MacKinnon, Ronnie Clough, Tucker Flannigan, Kevin MacNeill, Darren Murphy, Doug Currie, Ron Annear, Rob Moffatt, Steve LeCoure, Garth Arsenault, Randy Muttart and Bert Weir.