By Thomas Becker
Photo Janessa Hogan
After Saturday afternoon's performance, Sydnee Baker might have a case as Atlantic University Sport's (AUS) rookie of the year.
Baker scored a pair of goals to help the Panthers extend their win streak to two games with a 2-1 victory over the Université de Moncton Aigles Bleus.
"I try not to focus on those kind of things," said Baker, who leads all rookies with seven goals. "I just try to play my game and put points on the board."
Karine Roy scored the only goal for Moncton, which fell to the Panthers for the fourth time this season.
"That's four times we've played them and they were all one goal games," said Panthers head coach Bruce Donaldson. "We never swept Moncton, so for us it's good for the team and the program."
The Panthers controlled the pace from the opening puck drop and found themselves on several odd-man rushes, but were unable to capitalize on their opportunities.
Moncton keeper Gabrielle Forget was strong in the period recording nine stops, including a big glove save off Maria Clinton's wrister near the midway point.
Minutes later, Forget was at it again, helping her team fight off a Panther power play. The goaltender slid across the crease to deny Rachel Colle's open look off a nice cross-ice pass.
Marie-Soleil Deschenes wasn't really challenged on the other end and faced only four shots in the first, as her Panthers remained in a scoreless draw after one.
The deadlock continued late in the second period, until forward Baker added to her impressive rookie campaign. After Moncton squandered a 5-on-3 power play, the Panthers came up big at 15:14 when the teams were playing 4-on-4. After the initial shot was saved, Baker batted the bouncing puck in front of the net for the go-ahead goal. Kristen MacIntyre and Lindsay Johnston assisted on the play.
UPEI began the third with a minute remaining on a power play and they made the most of their opportunity. On a feed from Jessie Brown, Baker beat a helpless Forget, whose diving attempt couldn't keep the puck from crossing the goal line. With her second goal of the afternoon, Baker now leads the team with seven.
"She's intelligent. She gets the game and gets herself in great scoring positions," said Donaldson of Baker. "That line is really starting to come together for us. It has size, it has speed and it's got some creativity in it. So we're quite pleased with the way it's going."
The Aigles Bleus finally solved Deschenes while on a power play at 9:04. Roy notched her 12th goal of the season with assists from Katherine Dubuc and Brittany Poitras.
Moncton looked poised for the equalizer on another power play just three minutes later. But Deschenes steady performance between the pipes – 18 saves on 19 attempts – played dividends late, as the Panthers survived for the 2-1 win.
The Panthers hit the road next where they'll take on the Mount Allison Mounties. Puck drops on Jan. 22 at 2 p.m.