By Thomas Becker
To some, the ninth game of the season is too early to be thinking, "must win," but from an emotional standpoint, it certainly was for the UPEI Panthers.
After dropping their previous four games, the Panthers came back home and erased the bitter taste of the losing streak, as they outlasted the Université de Moncton Aigles Bleues in a 3-2 shootout.
Rookie forward Kelly Clements sealed the deal in the seventh round after the two teams played to a 2-2 stalemate.
"We lost in double overtime to these guys on Sunday, so getting back in there and being able to reverse that, just mentally and emotionally is a big a lift for us," said Panthers head coach Bruce Donaldson.
UPEI (4-4-1) looked the part of road weary team and it cost them early as they found themselves killing penalties more than anything. Moncton (4-5-1) missed out on two opportunities with the man-advantage, but in their third crack at it, Émilie Lalancette placed a perfect wrist shot snug in the left corner at 12:44 to give her team the 1-0 edge.
With just 14 seconds remaining in the first, UPEI's Jenna Pellerin countered with her own power play goal, beating Audrey Berthiaume glove side from the high slot.
Moncton's special team's unit haunted the Panthers once again, this time in the final minute of the second, when Katryne Villeneuve sniped a shot in the top right corner to push her team ahead 2-1.
Through two periods, Donaldson was less than enthused with the way his team performed, as penalties and the inability to get in the attacking zone with any frequency stalled a scuffling offence.
"We talked about it between the second and third and I told the girls that we're just down a goal, so let's just focus on that piece."
Following Donaldson's speech, the Panthers came out with fire and had pep in their step. And at 5:54, they were rewarded when Taylor Gillis stickhandled her way through the defence with speed and authority and brought the MacLauchlan Arena fans to their feet with a beautiful goal to tie at two.
"I just got the puck on my stick, looked up, saw the defenders and I just put my head down and went to work," said Gillis, whose goal sent UPEI to overtime.
Donaldson like many of the fans who were in attendance were in awe of the highlight reel goal.
"I've been in this building for 14 years with this program and that goal is easily one of the, if not the nicest goal I've ever seen."
Before the game reached overtime, UPEI goaltender Camille Scherger made a game-saving stop that forced her to sprawl out completely. She was phenomenal between the pipes where she made 34 saves on 36 attempts.
"She [Scherger] really stood on her head tonight," said Gillis, who was also named Subway Player of the Game. "She's another example of the game changers we have on this team. We built off every save she had in the game."
After the extra period solved nothing, Clements sent the Panthers back to the win column with her seventh-round penalty make.
UPEI will look to build off the win as they hit the road for a Nov. 9 tilt against the St. FX X-Women.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan