By Thomas Becker
The UNB Reds booked their ticket to the playoffs and took sole possession of first place after taking down the UPEI Panthers 3-1.
The Reds (18-4-0) have been jockeying for the coveted first seed with the surprising Acadia Axemen all season long. And following Tuesday night's win, in which Mark Rassell, Kris Bennett and Matthew Boucher each scored, UNB finally surpassed them, for the time being. Rassell also added an assist for the two-point night, while Tristan Pomerleau recorded a pair of helpers.
After scoring 11 against the Panthers (8-11-3) just five days earlier, the Reds were at it again early in the first period. At 2:09, Pomerleau's shot from the point went off Simon Hofley's left pad to Rassell, who tapped home the rebound for the 1-0 advantage.
UPEI would surrender another goal midway through the period when Brady Gilmour centered a pass from behind the net to Bennett, who tucked it away from close quarters.
That could've spelled trouble for the Panthers, but they weren't about to let this game get out of hand like it did on Friday. The home team fought toe-to-toe with their opponent in a scoreless second, thanks in large part to their penalty kill and the play of Hofley between the pipes.
The Reds had a chance to put the game away 11 minutes into the second when they were awarded a five-minute power play following a Darian Pilon check to the head. However, UPEI shut down the conference's best power play unit in that crucial stretch and later in the period when they were penalized again. Hofley made 15 saves in the frame and 31 overall, while his counterpart, Rylan Parenteau, turned aside 24 in the victory.
The Panthers cut the deficit in half just four minutes into the third when Filip Rydstrom wired a shot from the right circle past Parenteau's left shoulder for the beautiful power-play goal. Boucher ended any thought of a comeback at 9:27 after finally connecting on his team's fourth man advantage. The forward punched it in after Alexandre Goulet's shot from the point was left on the doorstep begging to be put in, as UNB took care of business 3-1.
UPEI looks to get back on track Friday night when they travel to Halifax to take on the Dalhousie Tigers.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan