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One of the most interesting dates for UPEI hockey fans is a game against Gardiner MacDougall’s UNB Reds who usually are the class of the Atlantic conference.
They’re back in a tie for first place at 9-3 (with Acadia) so tonight’s game (7 p.m.) MacLauchlan Arena should be a thriller. The Panthers have been playing great hockey of late and are now 4-6-3 on the season after a slow start. Earlier in the season, the Panthers lost 3-2 here to UNB in a tight-checking game and I expect a similar affair tonight.
MacDougall, a P.E.I. native, is one of the great coaches in Canadian university ranks and it appears he enjoys beating up on his home province; his UNB team, however, brings out the best in Forbie MacPherson’s Panthers who always play UNB tough here on the Island. The Panthers have been getting big performances from Kameron Kielly (7 -10, 17 points), Kyle Maksimovich (9-6, 15), Darian Pilon (7-5, 12) and all-star defenceman Owen Headrick (4-10, 14) while getting solid goaltending from Simon Hofley. A Panthers win is a real possibility.
The UPEI women’s hockey club (10-2-1) is also in action this weekend as they meet first-place Saint Mary’s (11-1) Sunday at 3 p.m. at the UPEI rink.
In basketball action, the Panthers’ men and women meet Dal tonight at 6 and 8 in the last of a Friday-Saturday twin-bill.
Also in university sports, the Uteck Bowl goes this weekend in Acadia as the unbeaten Axemen meet the Montreal Carabins who upset Laval Rouge et Or 25-10 in the Quebec championship. I’d expect a packed crowd for this game down in the Valley.
Regarding the sudden departure of Don Cherry from Sportsnet and the NHL hockey scene, such an ending was not all that surprising. It is no secret that Sportsnet lost millions of dollars last year on the hockey side of business and they did not renew the contracts of dozens, including our own Doug MacLean, one of the more articulate and knowledgeable of the on-screen types. Cherry’s exit was as much a salary dump as it was for Sportsnet embracing itself in “righteous robes”. I have seen Cherry say a lot worse than the “You people” but folks, times have changed. Hockey is now a game for skilled players, fighting and goons have been virtually eliminated from the game and Cherry is seen as a relic from the past. Cherry has always been a supporter of veterans and that we admire; he should have mentioned, however, that many newcomers that arrive on our soil today come from countries that were Canada and the U.S. Allies in conflicts like the Second World War, Vietnam, Korea and Afghanistan, so his “poppy” comments were indeed offensive to many. In addition, Cherry should have mentioned the fact that most Canadians buy more than one poppy as they get knocked off or are pinned to another coat or jacket. It’s a sad ending, and Cherry’s partner Ron MacLean is taking a pounding from Cherry loyalists on the social media sites who feel “MacLean threw Don under the bus”.
The Island Storm are busing recruiting and signing players for opening day of the National Basketball League of Canada which is Dec. 26 against defending champion Moncton. Popular and talented guard Jonathan Loyd from Las Vegas and ex-Harlem Globetrotter Nate Wright are worth the price of admission. Season tickets are now available at the Eastlink box office or by phoning 902-629-6625.
On the gridiron
The National Football League heads into week 11 and a number of games have playoff implications.
Chicago Bears (4-5) at L A Rams(5-4): Last week, the Bears beat injury-riddled Detroit Lions without Matt Stafford, no big deal, and now travel to LA Rams who need a win in the worst way. The Bears are great defensively but like the Rams are not scoring. Take the seven-point spread and bet the Bears.
Dallas (5-4) at Detroit (3-5-1): The Cowboys are coming off a home loss and the terrible defensive Lions will likely be without QB Stafford again. A laugher for the Cowboys; Jacksonville (4-5) at Indianapolis (5-4): Be careful here, QB Nick Foles is back for Jacksonville and they had a week off while Indy may not have Jacoby Brissett, questionable with a knee injury. Back-up Brian Hoyer played poorly in a loss to Miami. If Brissett is not 100 per cent, Jags can win here;
New England (8-1) at Philadelphia (5-4): Baltimore ran for 230 yards versus New England last game and the Eagles have a solid run game. Philly pass defence, however, is mediocre at best and against Brady and New England, that’s an issue that favours the Pats. Heart says Philly, head dictates the Patriots;
Houston (6-3) at Baltimore (7-2): The Ravens meet a hot Texas club with star QB Deshawn Watson who has won four of the last five. The Ravens look unbeatable led by Lamar Jackson. Too close to call, take the four points and bet Houston.
The Canadian Football League playoffs are down to the semifinal games with the Eastern final going at 2 p.m. Sunday as the Hamilton Tiger Cats entertain the Edmonton Eskimos. The West final is Sunday at 5:30 p.m. and it has Winnipeg travelling to Mosaic Field in Saskatchewan. I love the Tiger Cats to meet Blue Bombers in the Grey Cup.
On the track
Live harness racing continues today with the PEIHOA Horsemen’s Day, and the annual drivers championship. Eight of the top CDP drivers will compete in eight designated races on a race card where there will be numerous draws for betting vouchers and turkeys which should make for a fun day.
The Race 8 $2,100 feature has attracted a field of six — J K Cowboy, Mando Fun, Best to Hurst, Ten Mile Beach, Painted Pony and Jeb.
Sunday afternoon’s 12-dash card also has a 12:30 p.m. start and the $2,900 feature goes in Race 13 with the likes of Rose Run Quest, Euchred, Nogreatmischief, Woodmere Ideal Art and three others.
At Mohawk tonight, the $34,000 top class has Easy Lover Hanover, Physicallyinclined, Classic Pro, Brave World and five others.
Kevin Harvey’s Lisburn who won here three weeks ago has the rail in Race 2 has a shot in the $20,000 test.
Creelman MacAthur, who owned the Invitational and Blue Bonnets standout mare Royal Charm N with Myron Bell, passed away last week in Windsor, N.S. “Creel” was a major player in the local bar scene owning Gentlemen Jim’s in the city and in Cavendish. GJ’s sponsored numerous hockey clubs as well. Our condolences to all connected.
Fred MacDonald’s column appears each Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.