Review of 2018 and expectations for 2019 – winter sports edition

Review of 2018 and expectations for 2019 – winter sports edition

By Thomas Becker

MEN'S HOCKEY (9-6-1)

2018 IN A FLASHAfter back-to-back losses to begin the season, the Forbes MacPherson helmed Panthers went 4-2 in October to even their record heading into November. Sophomore forward Kameron Kielly was named the U Sports Athlete of the Month for October after posting five goals and five assists over six games. Filip Rydstrom turned heads in the Oct. 27 match against Acadia when he scored four times (the same number he had all of last year) and thrived ever since. Cody Payne also caught fire late in the first half and was named the AUS Athlete of the Week for his stellar play. Rookies Troy Lajeunesse, Doug Blaisdell, Nick Shumlanski and Andrew Picco have all stepped in and contributed admirably, while third-year newcomer Owen Headrick has become a force on the blue line, with third-year goaltender Simon Hofley stepping in nicely as the lead man between the pipes.

HIGHLIGHTLast season, the Panthers failed to register a win against Saint Mary's, but in 2018 they find themselves with a 3-1 record against the Huskies, who sit in second place.

STATSKameron Kielly (10 G, 15 A), Cody Payne (7 G, 10 A), Filip Rydstrom (9 G, 7 A)

2019Sitting four points out of second place, and with two games in hand, the Panthers put themselves in a good position to compete for one of the two byes by season's end. There's no question this team can score with the best of them and if they continue to progress on the defensive end and between the pipes, then the Panthers can really make some noise come playoff time. 

REMAINING HOME SCHEDULEJan. 4 vs. ACA; Jan. 5 vs. SMU; Jan. 9 vs. St. FX; Jan. 18 vs. UNB; Feb. 8 vs. DAL; Feb. 9 vs. St. FX



2018 IN A FLASHBefore the beginning of the season, head coach Bruce Donaldson said that this was a "two year plan", and so far so good for the 2019 and 2020 national hosts. The young Panthers sit just two points out of a top-3 spot – a goal they set out for themselves – and have gotten great production from rookies Jolena Gillard, Kelly Clements and Taylor Gillis. Consistency has been a bit of an issue in 2018. After a loss to St. Thomas opening night, the Panthers won three, lost four, won four and finished the year going loss-win-loss. That said, UPEI has already eclipsed last year's win total.

"Overall the team was pleased with their results for the first half. Presently we have more wins then all last season and are nestled into the conference nicely. Our power play was very positive in the first term and we were able to score more often than in previous years." – Bruce Donaldson

HIGHLIGHTThe Panthers' ability to win close games. Last year they lost eight games (seven in overtime) where they were within a goal. This year, they've already won five games by a goal. 

STATSJolena Gillard (5 G, 5 A), Rachel Colle (4 G, 5 A), Maria Clinton/Kelly Clements (3 G, 5 A)

2019The team now looks to secure a playoff position and will begin to focus several strategic areas, including D-zone coverage, penalty kill success and finishing off scoring opportunities. And while the team understands that they're hosting the national championship, the goal since training camp has been to earn their way into the big event.

REMAINING HOME SCHEDULEJan. 5 vs. Mt. A (Eastlink Centre); Jan. 6 vs. St. Thomas (Souris); Jan. 19 vs. UNB; Jan. 20 vs. Mt. A (O'Leary); Jan. 25 vs. SMU; Feb. 10 vs. St. FX



2018 IN A FLASHThe Panthers returned with mostly the same core that came a game short of the AUS title, and so far they're looking the part of a team that could go all the way. The backcourt duo of Jenna Mae Ellsworth and Reese Baxendale has delivered as advertised and putting up strong numbers, while Carolina Del Santo continues to be a force on the defensive end, where UPEI allows just 63.3 points a night on a league-low 36.5 per cent shooting. Rookie coach Matt Gamblin has made a conscious effort to get more production from the bench and at times players have stepped up. Lauren Fleming, for example, recorded 17 points in 61 minutes of action over the last three games. It's that type of production that'll benefit the team in their pursuit of a championship.

"We started well in November and showed growth in our concepts and points of focus." – Matt Gamblin

HIGHLIGHTThe Panthers' ability to make big plays late in games. UPEI has been in several close contests and boast a 4-1 record in games within four points.

STATSJenna Mae Ellsworth (17.7 ppg, 44.3 FG%, 4.1 rebs), Reese Baxendale (14.9 ppg, 4.3 rebs, 2.6 asts), Carolina Del Santo (8.4 ppg, 11.3 rebs, 2.4 blks) 

2019If the regular season ended today, the second place Panthers would earn a first round bye at the AUS Championships. Winning a title by playing three games in three days is a difficult task and UPEI felt that first-hand. The goal in 2019 is to hold onto to that bye with an eye on the No. 1 seed – currently held by the Cape Breton Capers. Coach Gamblin wants to see the team improve each day and if they can continue to build off their stingy defence, then a championship could be on the horizon.

REMAINING HOME SCHEDULEJan. 5 vs. CBU; Jan. 18 vs. St. FX; Jan. 20 vs. DAL; Feb. 2 vs. UNB; Feb. 15 vs. ACA; Feb. 16 vs. ACA



2018 IN A FLASHIn their second year of a rebuild, the UPEI Panthers, to the surprise of many, have already tied their win total from all of last year. Head coach Darrell Glenn's team consists of 10 rookies and sophomores and their 3-4 record is reflective of that. They're young, but there's a lot of talent to build a complete and deep team. This year's rookie class, in particular, has been a major upside, as twin brothers Nudy and Judy Georges, Jamesley Jerome and Samuel Campbell have all played meaningful minutes and brought in some much-needed athleticism. The Panthers thrilled fans when they jumped to an unexpected 3-0 start against the likes of the Memorial Sea-Hawks and Acadia Axemen, but as the competition stiffened, the youthful squad dropped the following four games before Christmas. 

"The best way to sum up the first half of the season is to say that we were inconsistent. We're still trying to find our identity." – Darrell Glenn

HIGHLIGHTThe Panthers' 3-0 start and the potential they've shown as an emerging team.

STATSAmin Suleman (11.6 ppg, 39.1 3FG%, 2.3 asts), Milorad Sedlarevic (10.7 ppg, 4.1 rebs), Dakelle Brooks (9.9 ppg, 3.6 rebs)

2019As it stands now, UPEI finds themselves in a playoff position and would benefit greatly from experiencing the AUS Championship tournament in March. But in order to get in, they'll have to improve across the board to be competitive against the upper tier of the league. Coach Glenn believes with their speed and athleticism they can do a better job of keeping people out of the key and stopping them in transition. While on the offensive end, he wants his team to be a more consistent three-point shooting threat. 

REMAINING HOME SCHEDULEJan. 5 vs. CBU; Jan. 18 vs. St. FX; Jan. 20 vs. DAL; Feb. 2 vs. UNB; Feb. 15 vs. ACA; Feb. 16 vs. ACA