By Thomas Becker
The UPEI Panthers laid to rest the memories of Sunday's setback with a tight 2-1 win over the Dalhousie Tigers Friday night.
Mentally, the win can't be understated. In years past, a big loss may have gotten in their heads and spiraled the team downwards. But this year they've responded well when faced with adversity.
Head coach Bruce Donaldson credits the team's mental toughness for their early season success, as his Panthers (8-5-1) sit in third place and have already won more games then they did all of last year.
"I think that's the difference this year," Donaldson said. "We knew we didn't have a good game on Sunday, but the girls had a good week of practice and wanted this win."
Rookies Katelynn Nice and Taylor Gillis gave the hometown Panthers the lift with a goal apiece, while Sophie Vandale and Emma Weatherbie recorded an assist each. Taylor Joyce was the lone goal-scorer for Dalhousie (4-10-2).
UPEI's special teams units went to work in the first and put on a perfect performance. Their penalty kill, in particular, shutout the Tigers on three separate occasions in the opening period and held them to 0-of-7 on the night.
"We made some adjustments after Sunday," Donaldson said. "Dalhousie moves the puck really well on their power play, but we were just trying to get into shooting lanes and force them to the outside and it worked out."
The Panthers, meanwhile, capitalized on their only chance with the man-advantage in the frame. At 12:40, Vandale's shot from inside the blue line hit off the left pad of Fabiana Petricca and redirected to Nice, who buried home the rebound and put her team ahead 1-0.
"Mentally, it was good to get that goal," Donaldson said. "It was hard to get everyone in the game because we were in the penalty box half the period, so it was nice to get that momentum and build from there."
The Tigers had their best chance of night on a Corinne Desjardins breakaway at 13:43 into the second, but Camille Scherger slid to her left and denied the threat to keep at 1-0.
On the other side, the Panthers attacked the zone with ferocity but Petricca was up for the task and difficult to solve, as she turned aside all 17 shots she faced in the period. She'd finish with 37 saves on the night.
After failing to capitalize on a two-man advantage early in the final frame, Gillis delivered a big goal and cushioned UPEI's lead, as she came in from the right and roofed it glove side at 11:44 for the 2-0 advantage.
"She just sees the ice very well," Donaldson said of his young forward. "She's exceptionally deceptive. I thought she was going with the backhand but she poked it right through on the short side."
Joyce responded for Dalhousie just 30 seconds later to trim it back to one, but that's all they could muster on Scherger, who had a bounce back game with 32 saves on 33 shots.
The Panthers hope to end 2018 with another win, as they get set to host the UNB Reds on Dec. 1 at 7 p.m.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan