By Thomas Becker
In true P.E.I. fashion, the home crowd rose to its feet after rookie forward Nick Shumlanski sniped a shot past the opposing keeper for the Panthers' opening goal of the 2018-19 season.
The former Humboldt Bronco was one of the bright spots in a tough 5-3 loss to the Université de Moncton Aigles Bleus. Result aside, it was a goal that carried a lot of weight for the 21-year-old.
In a tweet after the game, Shumlanski wrote: "Don't think one's ever felt so good. I miss everyone so much. Felt a presence with me tonight, this one's for you guys!"
Before Shumlanski's goal it was Moncton who did the early damage. At 12:09, the Aigles Bleus broke the deadlock, scoring just eight seconds into their first power play of the season. Maxime St-Cyr came in from the left and found an open Robbie Graham dashing toward the net where he tapped it past Simon Hofley.
Moncton wasted little time getting on the scoreboard again when Alexis Roy fired a shot off Hofley only to be gathered by Vincent Deslauriers, who roofed it in with the backhand just 1:32 into the second. Fourteen seconds later, the crowd stood in applause as Shumlanski cut the deficit to just one.
Despite controlling the pace of play, the Panthers were plagued by mistakes in the neutral zone, leading to several odd-man rushes and Moncton made them pay each time.
"They're [UPEI] a good team and we knew we had to be good offensively and capitalize on their mistakes to win the game," said Roy, who finished with a goal and two assists to earn Subway Player of the Game.
At 11:59, Édouard Marchand took a great feed from Ryan Chiasson and skated in alone to beat Hofley glove side to restore the two-goal lead. Three minutes later, Kameron Kielly deposited his first of the season, trimming it to 3-2.
However, that was short-lived, as Carl Marois found Roy, who pushed the lead back up two, 4-2.
"Our line had good chemistry tonight. We had good speed and they created space for me to work," Roy said.
Filip Rydstrom scored seven minutes into the third and the Panthers were threatening to tie it up, but Marois beat Hofley with two minutes to spare to seal the win.
Étienne Montpetit made 17 saves before leaving with an injury. His replacement, Alexi Thibaudeau, earned the win, stopping 16 of 18 shots.
The Panthers hit the road on Friday where they take on the UNB Reds.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan