By Thomas Becker
The Cape Breton Capers delivered a heartbreaking blow to the UPEI Panthers in a 2-1 come-from-behind win Sunday afternoon.
After trailing for most of the game, the league's top team shifted gears in the second half and responded with back-to-back goals just minutes apart, sending the Panther faithful home in disappointment.
"I was just waiting and waiting, hoping that ball would go in," said Cory Bent, who scored the game-winning goal. "I've been doing well this season with goals. It's a great feeling to put the ball in the net."
The Capers, who improve to 6-0-1, feel fortunate to come away with the hard-fought win against a gritty Panthers squad fighting for a playoff spot.
"It was a tough battle, it could have gone either way," said Bent, who also earned Subway Player of the Game honours. "Fortunately, it went to us today."
After a disappointing result against Saint Mary's earlier in the week, the Panthers came out fighting toe-to-toe with the defending champions.
Sam Smiley was the first to get a chance on net, but missed just high in the opening minutes. The Panthers (3-5) continued to push offensively and caught a break in the 30th minute when a Caper defender ran into Neil Harte in the penalty area, forcing the referee to call a penalty shot. On the ensuing kick, Ignacio Sanchez made it count and put his team ahead 1-0.
Ten minutes later, on a great individual effort, Mohammad Jaber freed himself of his defender and sprinted up the left side, but couldn't get a shot off before the defence converged on him.
Early in the second half, Panther goaltender Brett Strba stepped up big for his team making timely saves to preserve the 1-0 edge. He was especially brilliant in the 66th minute when he made a diving save on a Cape Breton penalty shot.
However, that was short-lived as the Capers came storming back just minutes later. On a cross from Bent, Tomiko Goater tapped it to Charlie Waters, who fired it from just inside the box, tying the game at one apiece.
Three minutes later, Waters found Bent with the cross and he didn't disappoint, scoring the game-winning goal to seal the 2-1 victory.
Despite the loss, Panthers coach Lewis Page saw plenty of positives from an emotional game.
"We played very well against the best team in the league and it showed us we can play with anyone," he said. "It sets us up well for the last four games of the season."
The Panthers get a break before they're at it again on Oct. 15 when they host the Dalhousie Tigers.
Photo: Janessa Hogan