By Thomas Becker
The comeback kids did it again.
Down two heading into the third period, the Saint Mary's Huskies scored a pair of goals less than five minutes into the frame, which tied the game at three apiece and forced overtime.
After the extra frame solved nothing, rookie forward Keith Getson delivered the final blow to the UPEI Panthers' playoff life in double overtime. Sam Dunn, centred a pass in front to Getson, who put away the second jab attempt, as the Huskies prevailed 4-3 and took the quarter-final series 2-0.
"It was an unbelievable pass by Dunner. He was coming off the wall and made a great feed in front, right through the seam, and I was lucky enough to put it in," said Getson, who was named the Subway Player of the Game for his heroics. "It was a really good team effort tonight."
Veteran forward Anthony Repaci finished with two goals, while Rookie of the Year candidate Mitchell Balmas added a goal and an assist. Stephen Johnson contributed with two assists in the series clincher.
For the Panthers, the loss represented another missed opportunity to close out a game when taking a lead into the third period. In Halifax two days earlier, UPEI took a 3-2 lead into the third but couldn't hold on, as they ultimately fell 5-4. Even in defeat, they earned the respect of their opponent for a hard-fought series that could have gone either way.
"At the end of the day, I'm glad we're moving on, but you have to give credit to them for playing us hard all year, not just the playoffs," Getson said.
Saint Mary's came out as the aggressors and dominated possession early. They'd capitalize on that momentum at 7:51, when Johnson cleared the puck out of the defensive zone to Repaci, who skated up the right side and beat Matthew Mancina with a low shot inside the far post.
Panthers head coach Forbes MacPherson must've said something to his team during a TV timeout shortly after, as they matched their opponent's intensity and responded with the tying goal at 8:58. After T.J. Shea stripped the puck in the neutral zone, he went along boards before sending a cross-ice pass to Jesse Sutton, who tucked it under the crossbar.
Kameron Kielly's hustle led to a UPEI goal midway through the second period, when the forward stole the puck and flipped a no-look, backhand pass off a Huskie defender's skate and in.
Drake Pilon extended the lead 3-1 just 28 seconds later. After Troy Lajeunesse dropped the puck off to Darian Pilon, Darian passed it back to Lajeunesse, who found Drake in front for the beautiful goal at 12:09.
Looking to end the series on the road, the Huskies came out of the second intermission strong and got to Mancina early. Mancina tried to play the puck off the net a minute-and-a-half into the third but fell and an alert Johnson passed it in front to Balmas for the easy goal. Repaci tied it up just three minutes later, when Balmas found him in the left circle where he spun around and fired it in the top right corner.
Aside from that four minute stretch, Mancina played very well considering this was his first full game of the season. The third-year netminder made 45 saves in the game and kept his team in it. But the Huskies beat him one last time on Getson's double overtime winner.
Saint Mary's now moves on to the semifinals where they'll meet the surprising Acadia Axemen.
"Acadia's a good team too," Getson said. "But if we come out with the same compete level that we had, coming back in this game and coming back in Game 1, it's going to be a good series."
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan