By Thomas Becker
The UPEI Panthers have had their issues closing out games this season. But on Friday night, they took a one-goal lead into the third period and added three more to put away the St. FX X-Men 6-3.
It's been a trying season so far for the 3-6-2 Panthers, but the win proved that they have what it takes to compete against anyone in the league.
"It's obviously a really good feeling. We've been working hard and to finally get the win tonight was big for us," said Headrick, who was named the Subway Player of the Game.
The win also marked their first at home.
"It's always important to take care of home ice in this league," said Panthers head coach Forbes MacPherson. "Everyone knows how hard it is to win on the road."
Before the Panthers showed off their offensive firepower, it was the X-Men who scored first. At 7:46, rookie forward Declan Smith tipped home Cole MacDonald's shot from the point for the power play marker.
UPEI responded just 21 seconds later, when Rydstrom put away a rebound in front off a Jesse Annear wrist shot from the point to tie it at one apiece heading into the second period.
Since Rydstrom's season debut on Nov. 1, the third-year forward helped UPEI to a 2-1-1 record. In those four games, he has three goals and three assists.
"He's our engine. He's a beast in the faceoff circle, he brings energy to the bench and he has swagger," MacPherson said. "He's a guy who guys follow and he wants to win. He just gets it done."
An odd play led to St. FX's second goal a minute into the period. Panther goaltender, Simon Hofley positioned himself to make a save, but slipped and fell a foot away from the net allowing Mark Tremaine to deposit the easy goal on the open cage.
Off a faceoff win at 14:15, Maksimovich deposited his first of the contest as he redirected Connor MacEachern's shot from the point past goaltender Blade Mann-Dixon. Less than five minutes later, the netminder made a pad save on Doug Blaisdell's shot, but the puck found Kielly's stick, and the all-star scorer easily put it away as UPEI went into the third ahead 3-2.
Headrick wasted little time and took over the scoring load four minutes into the period. After Jordan Maher centred a pass to Headrick, the defenceman made a nice move past a defender, fired it off the goaltender and put away the rebound from a tough angle.
Headrick did it again at 6:42 when he took a pass from Kielly, showed some patience and tucked away the wraparound goal. Maksimovich added the empty-netter late in the frame to close out the 6-3 win.
"We didn't hold back," Headrick said of the team's unwillingness to surrender another lead. "We were pressuring and forechecking like we normally would and I think that was a big difference."
The Panthers look for the weekend sweep in Halifax when they take on the Dalhousie Tigers Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.
"We just have to compete hard every night. We can't take any nights off, especially with our shaky start," he said. "From here on out, we have to be ready for battle and hopefully get some more wins."
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan