By Thomas Becker
Photo Janessa Hogan
With a little help from their rookie forward, the Panthers have booked a ticket to the playoffs.
Mohammad Jaber was a man on a mission Sunday afternoon, scoring two goals – including the game-winning tally – to propel his team past the Moncton Aigles Bleus 3-1.
"He's been great for us," said Panthers head coach Lewis Page. "He was creating chances all season long and now they're finally starting to drop for him and it's great to see."
Wanting to play the role of spoiler, the Aigles Bleus tied the game at one apiece early in the second half and made the Panthers sweat. But just two minutes later, momentum shifted as Jaber restored his team's one-goal lead before ultimately taking the game 3-1.
"I just used my speed, got in behind them and made the most out of my chances," Jaber said.
After watching his team struggle in the first half of the season, going 0-4-1, Page knew his team was capable of more. And he was right. Since tying Dalhousie on Sept. 24, the Panthers have gone 5-1-0 in six matches, allowing just two goals during that stretch.
"The players have learned a lot of lessons from the early part of the season and it's starting to pay dividends for us now," Page said. "We're learning what it takes to win games in this league and how to be a consistent team through it all."
It didn't take long for the rookie Jaber to get started. In the 15th minute, he controlled a lob pass from Jeff Moore, sprinted past the defence and slipped a shot by Moncton keeper Louis Bergeron, giving UPEI a quick 1-0 advantage.
In the 36th minute, Moncton had a great opportunity when Marc-Antoine Robichaud gathered a corner kick and shot it at Panthers keeper Brett Strba who denied the threatening attempt.
But the Aigles Bleus finally got to Strba in the 50th minute when Alexandre Thériault connected on his fourth goal of the season, tying the game at 1-1.
Just two minutes later, Lucas Ross found an open Jaber, who poked the ball past Bergeron for the 2-1 lead. The final blow came in the 73rd minute, courtesy of Mark
Ashlee, who notched his second goal of the season for the 3-1 final.
"To win games in this league you need everyone," said Page. "The great thing is we've been doing it with a full squad contributing and making us better."
The Panthers will battle the Mount Allison Mounties in their final home/regular season game on Oct. 28 at 7:15 p.m.