By Thomas Becker
Since the start of training camp the UPEI Panthers have been preaching the importance of balance throughout the lineup. Well, on Saturday night they backed those words up with a convincing 6-0 win over the Mount Allison Mounties.
Maria Clinton led the way with two goals, while teammates Rachel Colle, Kelly Clements, Delaney Boehm and Jolena Gillard each scored one. Defenceman Katelynn Nice finished with a team-high two assists.
"That's probably the big difference with us this season," Panthers head coach Bruce Donaldson said of his team's depth. "We have three lines that are really dangerous offensively. All our lines are getting opportunities and we're not spending near as much time in our own end as we have in the past."
With mostly the same crew as last year, Clinton said the team's familiarity with each other has been a big factor through the first two contests.
"It seems like our team is more cohesive and we're playing as a group more than individuals," the Subway Player of the Game said. "We know it's not going to be easy and that every night is going to be a grind, we just have to keep working hard and work as a team."
Riding the high of yesterday's big win at UNB, the Panthers came out strong looking for that weekend sweep.
Colle opened the scoring three and half minutes into the game when Jenna Pellerin centred a pass to the captain, who connected on the shot for the quick 1-0 advantage.
At 8:50, Kaylee Dufresne battled for possession and managed to get a shot off from a difficult angle, the puck then slid to Clements in front where she buried it home to extend the lead by two. Clinton, who was positioned behind the net, made it 3-0 just 30 seconds later when she shot the puck off an opponent's skate and in.
Even though UPEI's strong first period paved the way to victory, Donaldson cautioned that there's still plenty of work ahead, especially with the goals they set out for themselves.
"We have to keep sticking to what we're doing. Every night isn't going to be like this."
Boehm kicked off the scoring again 3:14 into the second when she deposited the rebound following Nice's initial from the right circle. Gillard did the same at 14:21 when she jabbed the puck in the back of the net after Mountie goaltender Kaitlin Mowbray failed to cover it up, as the Panthers went into the third period in command 5-0.
Clinton closed out the offensive barrage late in third with a beautiful goal. The fourth-year forward skated into the attacking zone, waited out the defenders and while handling the puck back and forth, she sniped it in the corner for her second of the game.
Camille Scherger, meanwhile, remained perfect on the season after a 14-save performance that included a breakaway stop in the second period.
Now that the league knows the Panthers are not to be overlooked, they'll have to stay composed to reach their end goal.
"Right now, we're playing some pretty good hockey but we need to continue to get better," Donaldson said. "Give them credit though, they're putting the work in and I think they're actually starting to believe that this is the year we can break through."
UPEI will welcome the Dalhousie Tigers next for an Oct. 11 showdown. Puck drops at 7 p.m.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan