By Thomas Becker
There must be something about the Island that brings out the best in Acadia midfielder Cooper Coats.
On this day last year, he scored a heartbreaking 89th minute goal in a 1-0 win against, you guessed it, the UPEI Panthers.
Today's story was eerily similar. Coats, again, came in as a substitute at halftime, but this time scored a pair of goals for the Axemen in a 3-0 win over the Panthers.
"I don't know what it is about this place," said Coats, who returned from injury and played in his first game of the season. "It's a great start for me, but I really think the lads are going to benefit from this win and bounce back after a tough opening weekend."
For the Axemen (1-1-1), it was a much-needed first win, as they look to turn their fortunes around.
"This win was very important," said Axemen head coach Findlay MacRae. "There's no room for error in this league and dropping points while all these teams pick them up is tough."
In desperate search of their first win, it didn't take long for the Axemen to make an impact. Just four minutes in, Travis Fenning came in from the left side, dribbled his way past defenceman Ben Keefe and fired a shot past Brett Strba in the top right corner.
"That goal helped take the pressure off and settled us down," MacRae said.
After conceding the quick tally, the Panthers (2-2) pressed the Acadia defence, but struggled to get quality shots off. That was until Ignacio Sanchez put fear in the hearts of the Axemen near halftime, when he struck the ball from 35 yards out, only to be denied by the outstretched arm of keeper Nic Jeffries.
At halftime, Coats got the nod from his coach and immediately made his presence felt. On a set play in the 51st minute, the Panther slayer redirected a volley from his teammate and headed it past the goaltender for the 2-0 advantage.
In the 61st minute, Sam Smiley successfully escaped his defender and had a great chance to cut the deficit in half, but sailed a shot wide with his left foot.
Acadia capitalized on the missed opportunity and finished the Panthers off in the 73rd minute, when Coats skipped a shot past Strba for his second goal of the match in the 3-0 victory.
"You saw the impact he has. He just has the goal-scoring instincts," MacRae said of his fourth-year midfielder. "He's a tremendous player."
The Panthers look to rebound from the loss next week at home when they take on the Saint Mary's Huskies at 3:15 p.m. on Sept. 23.
Top photo credit: Janessa Hogan