By Thomas Becker
Throughout the season, Jenna Pellerin has been the team's best playmaker with her 10 assists, but on Saturday afternoon she went on a scoring tear.
The fourth-year forward recorded her first AUS hat trick, as the UPEI Panthers handed the St. Thomas Tommies a 5-1 loss.
"My team's on fire right now," said the Subway Player of the Game. "They just fed me the puck and I just put it in the back of the net."
The win marks UPEI's second in row against title contenders. The other came on Jan. 11 when they defeated the Saint Mary's Huskies 1-0.
"Going to that Concordia tournament in December and beating McGill in our last game gave us a lot of confidence coming back," Pellerin said. "We know we have some tough matchups in the second half, so we wanted to carry that forward."
UPEI was physical early and it paid off just 16 seconds into the game, when Boehm won the puck along the end boards and sent a pass in front to Pellerin for the goal.
The Panthers (16-4-1) extended the lead 2-0 at 14:44, as Rachel Colle delivered a cross-ice pass to Nice, who took a touch and fired it by goaltender Marandee Hunter for the power play marker.
"I thought throughout the lines, everybody seemed to have good energy," said Panthers head coach Bruce Donaldson of his team's ability to get out in front early. "The bench was really good, there was lots of support and communication going on."
Looking to get back in it, the Tommies (10-11-1) came out of the intermission with more energy than their opponent and were rewarded for it seven minutes into the second. With the man-advantage, Mariah Carey redirected a low shot from Paige Jackson past goaltender Camille Scherger, cutting the deficit in half. That was the lone blemish in an otherwise strong effort from the star netminder, who turned aside 21 shots.
With less than two minutes remaining, the home team restored their two-goal advantage when Maria Clinton sent a cross-ice pass from the corner to Dufresne, who was charging toward the net before tapping it home.
After mixed results in the pervious period, UPEI looked to put the game away early in the third. At 6:27, Pellerin found herself on an odd-man rush with Colle, but took it in alone and wired a wrist shot in the top corner for the shorthanded marker.
Pellerin completed the hat trick five minutes later, as she gathered speed through the neutral zone went across the ice and tucked away a beautiful backhand, giving her team the 5-1 victory.
With the top four teams jockeying for playoff positioning and those two coveted byes still up for grabs, the Panthers wanted this one.
"We know we can't take a night off," Donaldson said. "Having that pressure behind us I think keeps us really focused."
The Panthers look for their third win in a row on Jan. 19 in Halifax against the Dalhousie Tigers.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan