By Thomas Becker
The Panthers' depth at the midfield and forward positions has played a big role in their early season success. And it was much of the same Saturday afternoon, as three different players scored in a 3-2 win over the Saint Mary's Huskies.
Just twice in five games have the Panthers fielded their opening day lineup due to various injuries. Yet, after Saturday's win they stand at a respectable 3-2 record – a testament of the players' preparedness when called upon and their ability to take that next step in their development.
"The players scoring goals for us are another year older, faster and stronger," said Panthers head coach Lewis Page. "We're a bit more composed in front of the goal, and we're creating more chances than we have last year."
It took Sanchez less than two minutes to get his team on the scoreboard, as he fired across his body from just inside the 18-yard box beating the keeper in the top left corner.
"We wanted to press them because we know they like to play in the back," Sanchez said. "The ball ended up coming to me and I found the space and just hit it toward the net."
Even after scoring the quick tally, the Panthers continued to get whatever they wanted on offence. In the 21st minute, Sam Smiley centered a cross from Cohen Reddick-Stevens and fired it past keeper Christian Oxner for his fifth goal of the season, extending the lead 2-0.
In his first game back from injury, Mohammad Jaber nearly made it 3-0, but his shot rattled off the crossbar.
The Huskies (0-4-1) came out of the break a stronger team and put a scare in the home team. Dominik Gorski volleyed a free kick from teammate Avery Senz to beat Brett Strba in the 59th minute, cutting the deficit 2-1.
After Aung restored UPEI's two-goal lead on a nice individual effort, the pesky Huskies stuck around until the final whistle and made things uncomfortable for the Panther faithful.
Darien Rolle scored in the 86th minute and with nothing to lose, Saint Mary's continued to move men upfront trying to get that tying goal, but the Panthers held strong to preserve the 3-2 win.
"Everyone's trying to get a playoff spot, so you have to expect that pushback from the opposition," Page said. "Every win is three points in the bank and we want to put as many points in the bank as we can and leave nothing to chance."
The Panthers are right back at it Sept. 24 when they take on the UNB Varsity Reds at 3:15 p.m. in Fredericton.