By Thomas Becker
The UPEI Panthers have been eyeing this part of the schedule since the start of the season, knowing there are plenty of points up for grabs. And so far they've delivered, as they captured three big ones in a 3-0 win over the Memorial Sea-Hawks.
Fourth-year striker, Mohammad Jaber played a key role Saturday afternoon, scoring the game's opening goal and assisting on another.
The offseason focus was about generating more offence and the team is hoping this showcase is just the beginning.
"We're more clinical up front this year," said Jaber, who was named Subway Player of the Game. "We're creating more offence, shooting more and everyone's working together and talking. It's a team effort out there."
The Panthers (2-3) controlled the game from the opening kick and never let up. Before scoring his second goal of the season, Jaber caught goalkeeper Dylan Crichton off his line and nearly lobbed a shot over him, but Crichton scrambled back before the ball crossed the line.
However, in the 39th minute, Jaber gathered a perfect through pass from Nathan Chow from the right side, fired it off the keeper and put away the rebound for the 1-0 advantage.
Jaber wasn't done there and continued to generate offence for his team in the second half. In the 52nd minute, the veteran sprinted down the right side and before he crossed the end line, he centred it to Donovan Wyand who fired on the open net.
The Panthers added another in the 78th minute. After Viktor Guterriez was hauled down in the box, Ignacio Sanchez stepped up to take the penalty kick and deposited his first of the season to close out the game 3-0.
Following the contest, UPEI head coach Lewis Page said he sees a stronger and more disciplined offence than a year ago, when they tied these same Sea-Hawks (0-3-2) in back-to-back games.
"Our players are more committed to making things happen when they get in the attacking third. In the past, we may have been good in the build up, but we had no killer instinct and I think we had that today."
Saturday began a stretch of five games against teams with a combined total of two wins. But with any great team, they're focused on themselves and what they need to do to succeed instead of who they're matched up against.
"We have to continue to build on the positive things we did today — the speed of our play and the speed of our movement off the ball — and if we keep doing those things well we're going to be a hard team to beat," Page said.
The Panthers look to make it two in a row on Sunday when they welcome the Université de Moncton Aigles Bleus to Charlottetown. Game time is 3:15 p.m.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan