By Thomas Becker
The UPEI Panthers and Dalhousie Tigers each carried a lead in a game that ended in a 3-3 draw.
The Panthers (4-3-1) scored two quick goals before the Tigers (3-1-3) countered with three unanswered. Sam Smiley deposited a pair of goals, including the game-tying score in the 78th minute.
"We came out of the second half saying we're going to win this and I think we did a good job just tying it up, it's just unfortunate we couldn't win it," said Smiley, who was named the Subway Player of the Game.
Smiley got the scoring started a little over a minute into the game when Mon San Aung lobbed a pass over the defence to the veteran, who cut toward the middle and fired it past goaltender Ben Grondin.
Just three minutes later, Mohammad Jaber took advantage of a misplayed Dalhousie header that landed in front of him for the easy goal, giving the Panthers a quick 2-0 lead.
Midfielder Ignacio Sanchez was removed from the game after he injured his leg which, along with that early lead, seemed to affect the team's defence, as the Tigers took full advantage.
"Once we scored those two goals, the energy just dropped off," Smiley said.
Dalhousie could have easily given in, but instead regrouped and bounced back in a big way. In the 21st minute, Freddy Bekkers fired a low shot from outside the 18-yard box past the diving Nathan Ford to trim the deficit in half.
Jacob Bolton was the next to score in the 32nd minute after teammate Skylar Bryant gathered a throw-in in the box, tapped it to Bolton who made a couple quick moves to get free before putting one past Ford.
The Tigers completed the comeback less than two minutes later when Bryant battled Josh MacKillop for the ball, passed it off to Bolton, who found Gracious Kasheke in the box where the third-year striker put away his first goal of the season. In less than 15 minutes, the visitors stunned the Panthers and took a 3-2 lead into halftime.
"They (Dalhousie) kept coming. They're a good team and we didn't answer their level of intensity when they were desperate," said Panthers head coach Lewis Page. "But I'm proud of our effort in the second half to come back."
Realizing they missed an opportunity in the first half, the home team came on strong in the second and had no intention of coming away with anything less than a point. The Panthers launched 11 shots in the final 45 minutes and really pressed the Dalhousie defence. UPEI was awarded a penalty shot in the 78th minute on an obvious hand ball and after Smiley's initial shot was saved, he put away the rebound to tie the game at three apiece
Ford came up big in the final moments of the game, when a Tiger cross was flicked toward the bottom corner of the net only to be stopped by the diving effort of the keeper, who helped secure a point in the standings.
Should a situation where they have an early lead present itself again, you can be sure the Panthers will be ready for it, especially as the playoff race begins.
"You have to go through these things to learn from them and I think they'll be aware of it next time," Page said.
The Panthers hit the road on Oct. 5 where they'll take on the Université de Moncton Aigles Bleus.