For the first time in my era, the two losses at MUN this weekend have officially eliminated us from the play-offs. This is an extremely bitter pill to swallow for all of our players and coaching staff. After finishing no lower than third in the AUS over the past five years, and having the best regular season record in the league over that span (64-36), as well as having three straight 20 win seasons and five straight winning records overall, plus finishing with two straight play-off first round byes for the first time in school history, and losing by a bucket in the AUS Final last season… it is an extremely tough time for our team right now. There was a great deal of emotion after the game yesterday. Our players and staff had to face the reality that our goals for this season would no longer be possible. We had a great talk with our young men after the loss yesterday. I told them that no matter what, I was very proud of them and that I loved them. I told them that a man's true character is only tested through adversity, and that I expected us to practice hard and to do our very best to win our remaining three games! I told them that the only way to respond to adversity is to remain as positive as possible and to keep moving forward, to keep working, to keep showing up and bringing your best effort and attitude!
Certain things happen throughout every season that makes a coach very proud or at times, very sad. We have certainly had our share of both this season. Believe me, not all of these things concern wins and losses. Yesterday, after we arrived back in Halifax and were getting ready to board the bus for the 3.5 hour drive back to the Island, two of our senior leaders and stars approached me separately. Both of these fine young men had made previous plans to stay in the Halifax area with family until early Tuesday, as they had arranged a ride back to school early so as not to miss class and practice later that day. We are constantly preaching team goals and values here at UPEI. We are constantly discussing the importance of team, and of our culture here within our program at UPEI. We have had to part ways with some players over my time here because we couldn't get them to buy in and understand that our team goals and values must always come before the individual player. Both of these players came to me and said that after the weekend that we had, and the way that our season had gone to this point, and all of our talks and discussions through their years here… they had both decided that it was more important for them at this point to return home to UPEI on the bus with their teammates! It is a great moment for a coach when he genuinely sees and feels that his players have been paying attention.
Retired Coach Vince Mulligan is a legend here at UPEI! What he did for our hockey program in the late 80's and early 90's is amazing. He also coached soccer, etc. over his many years here on staff. Coach was inducted into the UPEI Hall of Fame this past weekend, with three other very worthy candidates. Coach Vince Mulligan was one of the first people I met here on campus when I arrived in 2011-12. He has become a very good friend and supporter of mine and our program. He drops into my office quite frequently, and it is always a great time when he does! I really appreciate knowing him, and am so pleased that this great and very deserving honor was bestowed upon him by our University!
GO PANTHERS GO!