By Thomas Becker
A second half power surge was exactly what the UPEI Panthers needed to take down the Mount Allison Mounties on home opener night.
The first half didn't go as planned, but the one-two punch of Jen Balderston and Lauren Clark in the final 45 minutes helped carry the Panthers to a 2-1 win.
"We had a tough battle against Memorial last weekend and we knew we needed these three points," said Clarke, who scored the game-winner. "So everybody was just pushing to get shots off and we had some luck."
The Panthers controlled the pace of the game 10 minutes in and pressured the opposition's backline, but struggled to get quality shots off. It was a case of doing all the right thing and still coming up short. The Mounties, meanwhile capitalized on their only corner kick of the match, as Amanda Piltzmaker connected with Katherine Ollerhead for the game's opening tally.
Carly Connell had an opportunity in the 41st minute on a volley, but Mountie keeper, Sophie Austin fisted the ball over the goal to maintain the 1-0 advantage.
"I asked the girls to possess and move the ball, we just couldn't get off the shot that we needed," said head coach Graeme McDonald. "I was happy with how we played, but it was unfortunate to go into the half down 1-0."
UPEI had no intention of sending the crowd home disappointed as their offence came to life in the second half. On a 55th minute free kick, Balderston, with her powerful right foot shot, tucked the ball in the bottom left corner from 30 yards out to tie the game at one apiece.
"It was an important goal for us," Clark said. "Jen had a few free kicks before that one and knew she needed to place it somewhere differently. She picked the bottom corner and we went up from there."
After the goal, the Panthers relaxed and let the game come to them. Two minutes later, Clark, who came in for Tyffanie Bordage earlier in the game, got a great pass from her winger and chipped it past Austin to push her team ahead 2-1.
"It's huge to have someone like Lauren come in off the bench," McDonald said. "The good thing for us is that each of our strikers all give us something different. It's a good position to be in."
UPEI continued to put pressure on Mount Allison's defence and the score could have looked different if the ball moved just inches the other way. In the 70th minute, rookie Maddie Hurley set Clark up perfectly for chance just outside the box, but fired it off the right post. Seven minutes after that, Balderston almost duplicated her goal from early, but this time fired the free kick off the cross bar.
Despite the unlucky bounces, the Panthers are ecstatic to come away with three points and are looking forward to contending with the defending champion Cape Breton Capers Sunday afternoon.
"Now that we found the net, we have to go into Sunday and still think about scoring goals," McDonald said.
Game time is 1 p.m.