Payne, Aulie lift Panthers over Tigers 5-2

Payne, Aulie lift Panthers over Tigers 5-2

By Thomas Becker

With the playoffs right around the corner, the UPEI Panthers displayed their offensive firepower, as they downed the Dalhousie Tigers 5-2 Friday night. 

Veteran forwards Cody Payne and Sam Aulie deposited a pair of goals each, while rookie forward Troy Lajeunesse added another. Kameron Kielly and Gabe Guertler each had two assists in the victory. 

The win also gives the Panthers (14-12-3) a chance at capturing home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, a perk they'd surely welcome. 

"It's extremely important to get home ice," said Payne, who was named the Subway Player of the Game. "It makes a huge difference in a three-game series, so we'll be pushing for a big win tomorrow and make sure we get it." 

UPEI didn't mess around, knowing they had a dangerous opponent – who failed to qualify for the playoffs – to contend with and who was playing for pride. 

"We can't look toward the finish line quite yet. We had this one tonight and we have another tomorrow," Payne said. "We have a lot to work on and we're using this as a chance to get better." 

The Panthers were ferocious in their attack all night long, as they outshot their opponent 48-23 and controlled puck possession. And it didn't take long for them to get on the scoreboard either. On a power play at 4:17, Kielly found Payne in the slot where he wristed a shot past goaltender, Kevin Resop, who did everything he could to keep his Tigers (7-21-1) afloat.

Two minutes later, Lajeunesse took the puck from one zone to the other and rifled it from the top of the left circle to beat Resop.

Sam Aulie got in on the action at 13:04 and sneaked the puck past the netminder to push the lead to 3-0.

The Tigers responded with a goal of their own just two minutes later when rookie Campbell Pickard redirected Aiden Jamieson's shot from the right circle past Matthew Mancina

UPEI continued their relentless attack in the second. Payne was at it again midway through the period when he buried home the rebound off Guertler's shot from the slot for his second of the night. 

After Pickard connected on another goal at 16:24, Aulie countered with his second just 30 seconds later to restore the three-goal advantage, 5-2.

With the game well in hand, frustration began to boil over late in the third, as both teams saw several players leave the ice with game misconducts. 

"Today, we just played the right way. Dalhousie's always a hungry team and we matched their intensity tonight," Payne said.

The Panthers close out their regular season Saturday night at home against an undermanned St. FX squad. Puck drops at 7 p.m.

Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan