By Thomas Becker
All she needed to get going was a special kind of hockey stick and some love from home.
When Ashley McCutcheon's parents flew in for Parents' Week they made sure to bring her go-to stick ahead of Friday night's game against the Dalhousie Tigers. Turns out the stick has some magic to it as the rookie forward scored her first two AUS goals to help the UPEI Panthers come away with a 3-2 overtime win.
McCutcheon's second goal, which she put away with a little over a minute remaining in regulation, forced the overtime period, where fellow rookie McKinley Nelson dazzled with a slick backhander.
"It feels good to get the win," McCutcheon said. "There was a momentum shift after that tying goal, so we were going in strong wanting those two points."
McCutcheon's breakout couldn't have come at a better time, as her parents reside in Ontario and rarely get a chance to watch her daughter play live.
"It meant a lot," she said after the game. "Those were my first two goals and my parents were in town to see it, so it was special."
While the game ended magically, it certainly didn't start that way as the Panthers (4-1-2) were fortunate to come out of the first period tied 1-1. The Tigers (1-4-2) came out strong and found themselves consistently in the offensive zone, leading to a quick goal. On an odd man rush four minutes in, Emma Bishop took it herself and sniped it top right corner.
UPEI finally broke out of their early game funk and got on the board at 18:09 when McCutcheon stole an errant pass from behind the and put away the wraparound to tie it at one apiece.
The Tigers regained the lead late in the second period on another perfectly executed odd man rush. At 14:16, Keana Oshowy skated up the left side, passed it to her right to Autumn Moors, who set up Abby Wamboldt for a nifty backhand goal.
After the game, Panthers head coach Bruce Donaldson said his team had trouble against Dalhousie's forecheck, which put them in a bind early on.
"They work so hard upfront," Donaldson said of the Tigers. "I think right now, they're probably the best forechecking team in the league. They were hard on us, especially in transition."
Like last Friday's contest against these same Tigers, UPEI found themselves needing a goal in the third period and they found one late again. With 73 seconds remaining, Sophie Vandale's shot from the point hit the goalie and left a rebound in front to McCutcheon, who deposited her second of the game on the backhand.
The Panthers completed the comeback in the final minute of the overtime period, where Nelson took a feed from Kelly Clements in open ice, got Taylor Beam to bite on a move before sneaking a backhand by her for the win.
Donaldson's team has had its issues in the third period early in the campaign, but they seem to have corrected that in recent games and credits the team's resilience for the turnaround.
"It speaks to the character of the team for not folding and keeping with it."
The Panthers look to make it a 2-0 weekend when they host the St. Thomas Tommies Saturday at 7 p.m.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan