By Thomas Becker
The UNB Reds used a powerful first-period surge to make easy work of the UPEI Panthers 6-3 in Saturday night's tilt.
Mark Simpson, Patrick Watling, Christopher Clapperton and Matt Murphy with two goals, each scored in the five-goal opening frame in what turned out to be the deciding factor in the game. Simpson added a quick one to open the second period and earned Subway Player of the Game for his two-goal performance.
"I always take pride in working as hard as I can," Simpson said. "You play with good teammates too and that helps. [Matthew] Boucher made a great play on that first goal – stole the puck from the guy and made a great pass to me. And that second one, I was just going to the net and [Tyler] Boland took a nice shot off the pad and I was there for the rebound."
Fans didn't even get a chance to settle in before the Reds stunned the Panthers. After stealing the puck, Boucher came in from the left circle and found Simpson wide open near the crease for the easy goal just 21 seconds in.
Less than three minutes later, Watling jammed the puck in from the side of the net to put the Panthers in an early hole 2-0.
"It's probably our best start of the year," Simpson said. "This is always a tough rink to come into, [UPEI] this team always plays well at home and once we got that first one under our belt, we took over in the first and they couldn't find a way back."
Panthers' netminder, Matthew Mancina looked rusty in his first game back from a concussion and at 11:36 gave up a similar goal as the first, but with Murphy scoring on the open cage instead.
Clapperton sent Mancina to the bench after allowing his fourth goal in just 17 minutes of action. The score came off a low shot that squeezed by the post and the blade of the goaltender's skate. Eleven seconds after he was removed, backup goaltender Simon Hofley surrendered Murphy's second of the night to make it 5-0. The Panthers responded with Doug Blaisdell's first of the season to put an end to a disappointing period.
UNB came out of the intermission and continued where they left off, as Simpson deposited the easy power play marker off Boland's initial shot that Hofley couldn't control.
UPEI would get that goal back at 17:41 when Kameron Kielly notched his fourth of the season on a slap shot from just inside the blue line to cut the lead 6-2.
Sam Aulie tacked on another for the Panthers midway through the third to close out the scoring 6-3.
"We have a couple tough tests next weekend on the road, so we'll have a big week of practice coming up and we'll try to keep playing the way we've been playing," Simpson said.
The Panthers hit the road next weekend where they'll get their first looks at the Saint Mary's Huskies and Acadia Axemen.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan