By Thomas Becker
2018 couldn't have started any better for the UPEI Panthers – a relatively healthy team and a win to boot.
Cody Payne scored the lone shootout goal Friday night as the Panthers (5-13-1) snapped St. FX's seven-game win streak 3-2.
Payne also scored in the second period to tie things up at one. Teammate Beau McCue gave the Panthers a lead (albeit for 48 seconds) with a shorthanded marker in the opening minutes of the third before the X-Men (15-1-3) sent the game to overtime.
Subway Player of the Game, Matthew Mancina was stellar in goal, stopping 28 of the 30 shots he faced. The goaltender also held the X-Men scoreless during the shootout, where he made four additional saves.
There was a bit of controversy midway through the opening period, when the X-Men appeared to score as the puck ricocheted off the back bar and returned to the playing surface. After several minutes of deliberation, the referees decided no goal to keep the game scoreless.
Despite the missed call, the X-Men, who lead the league in power play goals (with 29), continued to show their dominance in that area just minutes later, as Santino Centorame beat a sprawling Mancina.
The Panthers bounced back just 2:28 into the second period, when Payne beat Chase Marchand five-hole on a great individual effort for the equalizer.
The goal seemed to give UPEI the confidence they've been looking for all season long, as they continued to generate scoring opportunities. However, Marchand held strong and made several key saves (11 in the period) to keep the game locked up at one.
UPEI opened the third the same way they did the second, with a quick goal at 1:28. After St. FX made a great defensive play on McCue, the forward retained the puck, danced around a defender and beat Marchand five-hole for the shorthanded marker. But the lead was short-lived as X-Man Matt Needham tied it up 2-2 just 48 seconds later.
The goaltenders on each end made some big saves late in the period to send the game to overtime, where the Panthers ultimately prevailed.
The Panthers look to stay perfect in 2018 as they welcome the Dalhousie Tigers on Jan. 6 at 7 p.m.