By Thomas Becker
The UNB Reds' magical season continued Sunday afternoon with a dramatic 4-3 win over the UPEI Panthers that sent them to the semifinals.
Down a goal with 5:10 to spare, the Reds rallied with two quick scores. At 18:06, Emma Borbandy roofed a power play marker from the blue line to square it at three apiece. And with 26.8 seconds remaining, Tamina Kehler took a pass from behind the net and from one knee, whipped a shot past the keeper, as UNB earned the quarter-final sweep.
"We pick it up a lot when we know we have to bear down," said Kehler, who was named the Subway Player of the Game. "We played hard those last five minutes. We wanted it really bad and it worked out for us in the end."
After the game, Kehler reflected on her brief time with the new program.
"It's surreal. I never imagined any of this coming in," she said. "I knew we were going to have to work our asses off and we have, and I think we deserve everything we got."
The Panthers for the most part outplayed their opponent and the shots on goal reflected that as they outshot UNB 38-15.
"We didn't play well until then," said Reds head coach Sarah Hilworth. "UPEI threw everything at us and they played unbelievable. We just hung in there and hung in there and then in the last five minutes things seemed to click."
Despite UPEI's early aggressiveness, the visitors were the first to strike. In a scramble against the boards, the puck squirted out to Hayley Hallihan, who wristed the Reds' first shot of the game past Camille Scherger.
Heading into Game 2, head coach Bruce Donaldson challenged his team to push back should UNB score. And they did exactly that.
At 12:37, Taylor Gillis centred a pass from behind the net to Jolena Gillard, who rifled it past Kendra Woodland.
Less than three minutes later, the home team scored another similar goal, but this time Gillard centred it to Gillis, as UPEI pulled ahead 2-1.
The Reds found the equalizer early in the second, when Paige Grenier's shot from the point deflected off a Panther and beat Scherger.
The Panthers almost scored again midway through the period, when a low shot nearly crossed the goal line before Woodland looked behind her and dove on the puck to keep it knotted up at 2-2.
Woodland played big throughout the contest, but it was in the middle stanza where she really left her mark. She made 13 of her 25 saves in the second and kept their opponent off the scoreboard.
But late in the third, UPEI would get to her again after Kelly Clements one-timed a beautiful pass from Rachel Colle to give them a 3-2 advantage.
The Panthers looked poised to come away with the win and send this series back to Fredericton, but the Reds regrouped and played their best hockey of the season over that critical five-minute stretch to steal Game 2 on the road.
"Everyone just labels us as this young underdog team," Hilworth said. "The exciting part to see is how big their hearts grew in those last five minutes and how they didn't wan t to go back home and play one more game on Tuesday."
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan