By Thomas Becker
Photo Janessa Hogan
After defeating the UPEI Panthers 2-0 Sunday afternoon, the UNB Varsity Reds inched even closer to a playoff spot.
Heading into the game, the Panthers were only three points behind the Varsity Reds for fifth spot in the standings, but with the loss, UPEI now find themselves clinging on to the final playoff spot.
"If the game goes the other way then they're tied with us," said Varsity Reds coach Jonathan Crossland. "But we'll take those points and put them in the bank as we head toward the end of the season."
Trusting his gut, Crossland tried first-year fullback Clarisse Ramirez at the forward wing position. The move paid off immediately.
In the 18th minute, Ramirez caught Panther goaltender Amanda Stanyer straying too far from the net and guided a shot past her, giving UNB an early 1-0 edge.
"It turns out it was a good coaching decision," Crossland said. "She was dangerous tonight, creating opportunities for herself and others. That's what we're looking for from our attacking players."
In the 24th minute, UNB beat the keeper again, but the defence sprinted to the goal line and cleared the ball to safety, eliminating the threat.
In the second half, Stanyer settled down in goal, saving back-to-back attempts on a scramble at the net. But she wasn't so lucky in the 58th minute when Courtney Strba redirected a Ramirez cross for the score, extending UNB's lead 2-0.
"I thought we played well and executed our game plan to its fullest," Crossland said. "It would've been nice to see few more go in the net to make it a less stressful afternoon, but we'll take the win."
The Panthers struggled to maintain possession throughout the first half, putting pressure on the defence to stop the Varsity Reds' attack.
"I think we struggled to get started today," said Panthers head coach Graeme McDonald. "We gave the ball up and it gave UNB the opportunity to put something together."
Despite the loss, McDonald said he saw some positives that the team can build on moving forward.
"The way we finished the second half was fantastic. The lesson is we need to do that for the whole game."
With only three games remaining in the schedule and a single point separating the sixth place Panthers from the seventh place Dalhousie Tigers, there's no better time to win games.
"The big picture is we're still in the drivers seat to get in the playoffs. Now we're going to have to work out a way to win games," MacDonald said
The Panthers will now turn their attention to the visiting Memorial Sea-Hawks in an Oct. 22 match. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.