By Thomas Becker
Photo Janessa Hogan
After a long layover, the Panthers opened the New Year the best way possible, with a lopsided 5-0 win over the Dalhousie Tigers Friday night.
Following Beau McCue's second period tally, the roof caved in on the Tigers as defencemen Austin Levi and Casey Babineau and forwards Cody Payne and Brent Andrews each scored in the final period, putting an end to the Panthers' seven-game losing streak. McCue and Andrews led the way with two points apiece (one goal and one assist).
"We felt great all week in practice, but there's no replacing having success in a game to build our confidence," said head coach Forbes MacPherson, who implemented a new game plan focused on defined roles for his players.
For the team's captain, the win couldn't have come at a better time.
"We had a little over five weeks to clear our heads and get back on track," Andrews said. "We utilized that time well and tonight it showed."
It was a grind-it-out affair in the opening period, with both teams playing energized in an attempt to build momentum for the second semester run.
On a power play at the 4:25 mark, the Panthers mishandled a blue line pass, leading to a Tiger breakaway. But goaltender Matt Mahalak stood tall to deny the scoring threat.
Mahalak did his part, recording 21 saves on the night to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard.
"He made some key saves that were difference makers," said MacPherson.
Tigers goaltender Joseph Gladnick, who got the start in place of Corbin Boes, matched Mahalak save for save, stopping all six shots he faced in the period.
Dalhousie was strong defensively, using effective poke checks to limit the Panthers' good looks, holding them without a shot on goal in the last six minutes of the period.
That didn't last, though, as the Panthers came out of the intermission firing at will, making Gladnick's night uncomfortable while outshooting their opponent 17-8 in the frame.
After killing off a pair of penalties, it was UPEI's turn to strike fear in the Tigers goaltender. Late in the period, the Panthers offence awoke and delivered shot after shot, until McCue broke the deadlock with his fourth goal of the campaign.
UPEI's momentum carried into the third period as the Panthers opened the frame with the man advantage. And they didn't disappoint. At the 1:44 mark, Levi fired a laser from the top left circle past a helpless Gladnick, doubling their lead 2-0.
The Panthers' power play unit delivered again midway through the period when Payne notched his 11th goal of the season, giving them a comfortable 3-0 lead. Babineau and Andrews added a pair of goals less than two minutes apart for the 5-0 final.
The Panthers look to make it two in a row on Jan. 7 when they take on the St. F.X. X-Men at MacLauchlan Arena. Puck drops at 7 p.m.