CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI (from UPEI Panthers) – The UPEI Panthers upset the U Sports No. 1 ranked UNB Varsity Reds 3-2 Wednesday night.
“We’re trying to build consistency in our game,” Panthers head coach Forbes MacPherson said. “In the last three games, we feel we’ve played very well, as well as any team can play.”
The Panthers boasted a balanced attack with eight players recording at least a point.
Nathan Yetman (Cornwall, PEI), R.T. Rice (Invermere, B.C.) and Beau McCue (Pasco, Wash.) each found the back of the net, while Marcus Power (St. John’s, NL) had a pair of assists.
“It was an emotional win for us,” said Rice, who was named Player of the Game. “We’ve been playing well the last couple of games and tonight we came out with a good team win.”
It was an evenly matched opening frame. The Panthers opened the scoring at 15:14, when Yetman beat Varsity Reds goaltender Alex Dubeau (Mascouche, Que.) to give the home team a 1-0 edge.
That lead was short-lived as the Varsity Reds capitalized on their first power-play of the night. Chris Clapperton (Cap d’Espoir, Que.) scored his 11th goal of the season at the 18:03 mark.
Midway through the second period, Kris Bennett (Brampton, Ont.) gave UNB a 2-1 advantage on a nice feed from Oliver Cooper (Fredericton, N.B.) across the crease.
The Panthers tied it 2-2 at 12:52, when Rice notched his third goal of the campaign.
“At the start of the year, when we were down, we had a hard time getting back, but now we believe we can win,” Rice said. “This is like playoff hockey, and as you can see, anyone can win it.”
Early in the third, McCue’s wrist shot was re-directed off a UNB skate and beat Dubeau.
With time winding down, the Varsity Reds were pressing, searching for an equalizer. The UPEI defence was on its heels and the Panthers faithful on the edge of their seats, but goaltender Matt Mahalak (Monroe, Mich.) and the Panthers held off the attack, and held on for the 3-2 final.
In his fourth consecutive start, the fourth-year netminder made 25 saves.
“Matty did his job between the pipes, made the saves when he had to make them, but that was a total team effort,” MacPherson said.
The Panthers hit the road on Friday. They’ll take on Université de Moncton Aigles Bleus in a 7 p.m. AT start.
The Varsity Reds will host les Aigles Bleus at 7 p.m. AT Saturday.