By Thomas Becker
The UPEI Panthers still have work to do if they want to be in the conversation as an upper-echelon team in the AUS.
The perennial powerhouse Saint Mary's Huskies – winners of the last three championships – put on a defensive clinic in a 3-0 win and made a statement that they're still the team to beat.
The loss put an end to the Panthers' three-game win streak in which they scored 16 goals. While the Panthers (3-2) outshot their opponent 23-22, few of the shots really challenged goaltender Rebecca Clark, who recorded the shutout.
"Clarky plays a huge role for us. We all rely on her and having her back there calms everyone's nerves," said alternate captain Siobhan Birch, who recorded two goals in the win. "Knowing that we have someone like her in net, we can all play at ease in our zone and focus on getting the puck out."
It was hard-fought first period with scoring chances coming at a premium, but the Huskies (4-1) took advantage of a slashing penalty by Kristen MacIntyre midway through the period. The power play unit executed the cycle to perfection and found a clean shot for Miranda Hatt that was saved by Camille Scherger, but Birch buried the rebound home on the open cage for the 1-0 edge.
After a scoreless second, Birch continued to torment the Panthers on the power play and notched her second of the game at the 7:18 mark of the third to cushion the lead 2-0.
"I'm working well with my linemates and we're finally starting to click in the offensive zone," she said. "We just have to keep working on getting the pucks out and moving it up quickly."
Caitlin Pejkovic netted the third goal of the afternoon in the final minute of play, as the Huskies looked the part of a team destined for the nationals.
"It's always been everyone's dream on the team to win a championship, and with it being so close to home it would be a really cool thing to do."
The Panthers have a quick turnaround and will get their first look at the UNB Reds in Fredericton on Oct. 28 at 3 p.m. The Huskies, meanwhile, return home for a Wednesday night game against Moncton.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan