By Thomas Becker
The UPEI Panthers have demonstrated they can score with the best of them, but on Friday night they showed fans they grind out wins too.
The Panthers (5-4) edged the Université de Moncton Aigles Bleus 3-2 with a gritty effort and some timely production from complementary players. Brent Andrews and rookies Nick Shumlanski and Owen Headrick each scored in the victory.
"It felt like a playoff atmosphere. Both teams were dialed in, playing fast and physical," said head coach Forbes MacPherson. "You start the game with the same frame of mind, but sometimes you score in bunches and sometimes you have to find a way to grind it out like we did tonight."
It felt like one of those games where the captain has to step in and set the tone early and UPEI's captain did exactly that. At 3:58 in the first, Andrews took a pass from Shumlanski and rushed toward the net from the left and weaved through the defence before roofing it with the backhand.
"I didn't really do anything different," said Andrews, who recorded his first goal of the year. "It's definitely been a grind not scoring in the first few games, but to get that one out of the way is a good feeling."
No one was happier to see that first goal hit the back of the net than MacPherson.
"It's real nice to see him get on the board and score like that because we know what kind of player he can be in this league," MacPherson said of his fifth-year centre.
Thirty-six seconds after Andrews scored, Moncton's leading scorer, Marc-Anthony Therrien tied it up.
Maxime St-Cyr gave the Aigles Bleus (5-4-2) their first lead of the game midway through the second frame, but the home team responded with a quick goal the other way at 10:54. Troy Lajeunesse found Shumlanski open in the right circle and with a quick release, the former Humboldt Bronco deposited his third of the year past a helpless Étienne Montpetit to tie at two apiece.
Six minutes later, UPEI took advantage of a dangerous check to the head by Danick Emond that sent Beni Berisha to the locker room. While on the power play, Headrick put his team ahead for good with a slap shot from the high slot.
"Our new guys have come in here and are playing big minutes and big roles for us," Andrews said. "They've all stepped up in their first season with UPEI and it's only going to get better."
The Panthers have a quick turnaround and will head Fredericton on Nov. 3 where they'll take on the UNB Reds. Puck drops at 7 p.m.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan