By Thomas Becker
It took awhile, but the Varsity Reds' power play unit came together late in the second period, leading them to a 5-3 win over the Panthers Friday night.
After starting 0-3 with the man advantage, UNB finally struck gold and made the most of their opportunities finishing 3-4 in that category.
Leading the way was Subway Player of the Game, Stephen Anderson, who scored a pair of goals in the crucial period.
"We were getting a lot of shots on the goaltender, but he had a heck of night and we couldn't get anything by him" the third-year forward said. "We just stayed with it and after we got the first one, it came in bunches."
However, it was UPEI who was doing most of the damage early on. After a lengthy back and forth affair in the opening period, Sam Aulie finally broke the deadlock with only 1:12 remaining on a nice feed from Marcus Power and Darcy Ashley.
Despite playing shorthanded for six minutes, the Panthers were able to carry a 1-0 lead into the intermission, thanks in large part to rookie goaltender Matthew Mancina, who got the nod in the home opener. He finished with 44 saves on 49 shots and was outstanding for an extended period of time, making save after save to keep his team alive.
But it was only a matter of time before the defending national champions connected on their shots.
Late in the second period, Panther rookie Filip Rydstrom earned a five-minute penalty and game misconduct for charging and the Varsity Reds made the most of their opportunity.
First it was Anderson who beat a sprawling Mancina on a nice cross-ice pass from Christopher Clapperton. Oliver Cooper added another just three minutes later, and just as the penalty ended, Anderson netted his second of the game. Suddenly, the Panthers slim lead evaporated and turned into a 3-1 deficit heading into the final period.
"We're a team that once we get one, we seem to pounce on them and get two and three, so that first one was big for us," said Anderson, who's off to a tremendous start to his season with five goals in two games.
UNB came out of the intermission strong, hoping to maintain their momentum. And they did just that. While on the penalty kill, Kris Bennett gathered the puck in the neutral zone, skated past the defence and buried a shorthanded goal for a commanding 4-1 lead.
Charlottetown native Kameron Kielly made things interesting with his first goal as a Panther, but UNB's Cam Brace ended any hope of a comeback with another power play marker late in the period.
Ryan MacKinnon added another for UPEI, but it was too late as the Varsity Reds came away with the 5-3 win.
"After being back-to-back national champions, we're always going to have a target on our back," Anderson said. "We feed off that. Everyone seems to bring their best game against us and that's good for us, it gives us a challenge and we have to be ready every single night."
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan