By Thomas Becker
After yesterday's emotional loss to the Saint Mary's Huskies, the UPEI Panthers bounced back and captured a team-best 20th win of the season as they downed the St. Thomas Tommies 3-1.
"I think it's huge," Vandale said of the win. "It's good to get a win before playoffs and get the momentum going. Overall, I thought we had a great weekend."
It's the first time under head coach Bruce Donaldson's tenure that the Panthers won a season series against St. Thomas. This year, they finished 3-1-0.
"St. Thomas has had our number over the years," he said. "Emotionally and mentally it just gives us confidence moving forward."
UPEI (20-7-1) came out strong and dominated the first period, with a lot of the action taking place in the attacking zone, as they outshot their opponent 17-7.
But it was the Tommies (13-14-1) who got on the scoreboard first. At 5:42, Danielle Ring fired a shot off goaltender Sasha Weeks and buried her own rebound to put them ahead 1-0. Weeks settled down after that and turned aside 20 shots to earn a win in her first AUS start.
"She was solid in net for us and she gave us an opportunity to win," Donaldson said of his netminder's debut.
The Panthers responded at 12:39 when Vandale's shot from the point was tipped in front by Pellerin for the tying goal.
Two minutes later, Gillis skated in from the left and sniped a wrist shot far side, top corner for the power play marker and the 2-1 lead.
"We talked about our power play in the pre-game, so it was good to see us execute on one."
Tommies goaltender Caroline Pietroski did everything she could to keep her team in the game, as UPEI was held off the scoreboard for the entire second period and most the third. Pietroski finished with 34 saves on the afternoon.
The Panthers' tenacity led to their third goal of the game with a little over a minute remaining. After battling along the end boards, Gillard got the puck over to Pellerin, who passed it back in front to Gillard for the tally.
UPEI now turns their attention to the sixth-seeded Université de Moncton Aigles Bleues for a quarter-finals matchup. Game 1 will be played at home at a date and time yet to be decided.
"We have to be mentally ready and we have to keep playing like we have been," Vandale said.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan