By Thomas Becker
Rallying off a week in which they clinched a playoff spot and were named hosts of the 2019 and 2020 U Sports Women's Hockey Championships, the UPEI Panthers delivered a strong defensive effort in a 2-1 shootout win over the St. Thomas Tommies.
The Panthers (5-10-7) finally broke the goose egg Friday night for their first overtime victory in eight tries. Goaltender Megan Sullivan was a big part in that, recording 24 saves (three in the shootout) and holding the third-ranked offence to just a goal. As a result of her strong effort, Sullivan was named Subway Player of the Game.
"Meg played really well for us," said head coach Bruce Donaldson. "She made some key saves when we needed her to."
UPEI's defence was nearly impenetrable, limiting a Tommies (11-7-4) team that fires away 29 shots on average to just 22 shots. Donaldson was also impressed with the way his penalty kill unit contained St. Thomas' high-powered offence.
"They (St. Thomas) have the second best power play in the league and we kept them off the score sheet tonight," he said. "Emotionally and mentally it makes a big difference for us."
In what could be a potential first round matchup, shots came at a premium in a defensive-minded opening period, as the two teams combined for just eights shots – four apiece.
After the slow start, Lindsay Johnston beat Tommie goaltender, Abby Clarke, five-hole five minutes into the second to break the deadlock.
St. Thomas tied it up 10 minutes later when Becky Conner found rookie teammate, Kaylee Vader who notched her second goal of the season.
The defensive affair continued in the third period, as the teams struggled to generate scoring opportunities, forcing the game into overtime.
"It was a back and forth tilt and at the end of the day, we defended quite well and limited their opportunities," Donaldson said.
Following the scoreless frame, St. Thomas' Lauren Henman opened the scoring in the shootout, only to be matched by a Leah Byrne goal for UPEI. Sydnee Baker and Rachel Colle connected on the next to shots, giving the Panthers the 2-1 shootout win.
The Panthers hit the ice again on Feb. 3 when they welcome the Mount Allison Mounties to town. Puck drop is 7 p.m.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan