By Thomas Becker
A Panther-Axemen matchup at MacLauchlan Arena rarely disappoints and Friday night was no exception, as UPEI got the better of their rival 4-1.
After surrendering an early goal, the Panthers (7-5-1) countered with four unanswered to grab the victory. Cody Payne broke out and matched his season total with two goals, while Kameron Kielly and Beau McCue chipped in with a goal apiece.
"We pushed the pace and we were physical from the get-go," Payne said. "Over the years, these guys have had our number and now we're having some success against them. It's like any team in this league, if you play the right way you can win the game."
Head coach Forbes MacPherson said he was encouraged to see his third-year forward produce the way he knows he's capable of. It's no secret that Payne is off to a slow start, but if his latest performance is a sign of things to come, then the opposition will have their hands full defending a deep and prolific offence.
"We feel like the balance throughout our lineup is starting to become a strength of ours," MacPherson said. "When you have layers and depth to your team then you start to offer more of a challenge to your opponent."
The Panthers were unlucky in the opening minutes, as they hit the post a couple times and saw several pucks miss just wide of the net. The same couldn't be said about the Axemen (4-8-2), who found the back of the net at 4:28 when Stephen Harper scored off a faceoff win that eluded goaltender Simon Hofley.
However, UPEI would get that goal back before the period ended. Troy Lajeunesse connected with Payne, who came in from the left, waited out the keeper and snuck the puck past him to tie it at one apiece.
The Panthers hit the gas in the second and quickly took the lead at 3:42. Tanner McCabe sent the puck across the crease to Kielly, who tapped it in the open cage to pull his team ahead 2-1.
Payne made the most of a two-man advantage just four minutes later when he deposited his second of the night on a short side rebound.
"I'm just trying to do the little things right and I'm playing with two really good players who make it easy," said Payne, who was named the Subway Player of the Game. "The power play is clicking right now and we hope to keep it going."
Hofley rebounded from his earlier miscue and stepped up in a big way in the third, where he made 13 of his 27 saves. Acadia dominated possession and even had a chance to inch closer with a five-minute power play late in the period, but they couldn't solve the third-year netminder. With time slipping away, McCue sealed the 4-1 win with an empty net goal.
"They [Acadia] definitely had a push and they rallied between the second and third, but we were resilient and our killers did a good job blocking shots and taking away shooting lanes," MacPherson said.
The Panthers look to extend their two-game win streak when they take on the Saint Mary's Huskies on Nov. 24 at 7 p.m.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan