By Thomas Becker
Photo Janessa Hogan
The Moncton Aigles Bleus needed a series of big saves from their keeper to salvage a 0-0 draw against the UPEI Panthers Sunday afternoon.
Near the end of the first half, Panthers forward Jade-Evelyne Bellemare had scoring opportunities on three different occasions, but Dominique Leblanc's play in goal kept her off the scoreboard and locked the game at zeroes, as each team grabbed a point in the decision.
"We had enough chances to score and win it, we just couldn't find that goal," said Panthers head coach Graeme McDonald. "I felt we were the better team today, but if you don't put the ball in the net, you don't win games."
The result is especially tough for UPEI, as they continue to chase the final playoff spot currently occupied by the Dalhousie Tigers.
Heading into the game, both Dalhousie and UPEI were tied for the sixth and final position with eight points each. Following Sunday's stalemate, the Panthers gained a single point, while the Tigers grabbed three in their 4-1 defeat of the Saint Mary's Huskies.
"We're in a position where we need a little bit of help and have to rely on a result from somebody else," McDonald said.
With only two points separating UPEI from Dalhousie, the final week of the regular season will be crucial in determining who goes on. In the final matchups, the Tigers face the same Huskies they defeated, while the Panthers take on the Mount Allison Mounties who sport a 1-7-2 record for just five points.
"I think we have to play the same way we did today to give ourselves a chance," McDonald said. "If those opportunities come next week then we have to make sure we put them away."
UPEI controlled possession from start to finish and made things difficult on the Aigles Bleus. Bellemare led the charge for the Panthers, getting any shot she wanted on the opposing keeper. Fortunately for Moncton, Leblanc was steady in goal, turning away every shot she faced.
Five minutes into the second half, Aigles Bleus forward Madelaine Leblanc avoided a Panther defender and fired a shot, rattling the crossbar, for their best opportunity of the match.
Jennifer Balderstone countered in the 66th minute with a boot from 25 feet out, nearly giving UPEI the decisive goal, but missed just high, preserving the nil-nil outcome.
"There were times when we could have had three or four chances, but the goals didn't quite come," McDonald said.
In their final home and regular season game, the Panthers will take on the Mount Allison Mounties on Oct. 28 at 5 p.m.