Panthers hold on for 5-4 win over Reds

Panthers hold on for 5-4 win over Reds

FREDERICTON, NB—The UPEI Panthers were able to stave off a late comeback attempt to defeat the UNB REDS 5-4 in Atlantic University Sport men's hockey action, on Saturday night at UNB's Aitken Centre. 

"It's always great to get a win in this barn, it's a tough place to play in," said Panthers' forward TJ Shea (Tignish, PE). "We had a solid 40 minutes, but kind of got flustered in the third period. But kept the puck out of the net when it mattered most and came out of here with the win tonight."  

Shea shocked the UNB crowd early, scoring just 61 seconds into the first period to give UPEI an early 1-0 lead.  

"[Kyle] Maksimovich gave me a great pass in the slot that gave me the time and space to pick my spot and luckily it went in," said Shea. 

The REDS answered back later in the period, thanks to captain Jason Willms (Kitchener, ON). Wilms was able to put home the rebound off a great effort from newcomer Emmett Sproule (Collingwood, ON) to tie the game at 13:11 of the first.  

"It was a nice play by Emmett to create the turnover in the offensive zone," said Wilms. "I just tried to go to the front of the net and good things come when you do that." 

Shortly after, UPEI was able to get the go-ahead goal as Jordan Maher (Gander, NL) took a feed from Zac Beauregard (Repentigny, QC) and beat REDS goalie Sam Richard (Ste. Catherine, QC) glove side to give the Panthers the 2-1 lead. 

Drake Pilon (Sault Ste. Marie, ON) was able to increase the UPEI lead after putting home a point shot from Andrew Pisco (Marystown, NL) that took a weird bounce off the end board to make it 3-1 Panthers after one period. 

In the second, the REDS were given a chance to close the gap after UPEI defensemen Ian Smallwood (Quispamsis, NB) covered the puck in the crease. UNB was awarded a penalty shot, but Adam McCormick (Waterville, NB) was unable to beat Panthers' goalie Jonah Capriotti (Mount Hope, ON) who was stellar on the night, making 41 saves in the win.  

The Panthers then added to their lead on the power-play, at 14:28 of the second period, thanks to Carson Mackinnon (Summerside, PE) who was able to corral a mishandled rebound from a point shot by defensemen Kyle Maksimovich (Hamilton, ON). Richard had thought he gathered the blast from Maksimovich, but the puck popped loose allowing Mackinnon to put home the Panthers' fourth goal of the night and make it 4-1 heading into the final period.  

UNB came alive in the third period. Just 4:32 in, Willms netted his second goal of the night. The REDS' captain was able to walk out in front of the net and put the puck past Capriotti to close the gap to 4-2. 

"I was just trying to get to the front of the net and take it to the far side," said Willms. "I was lucky enough to put the backhand home and give our team a chance." 

The Panthers answered back when Cole Candella (Mississauga, ON) rifled a point shot to put UPEI ahead 5-2. 

The REDS wouldn't quit though, as McCormick added a power-play goal at 12:23 of the third. 

A few minutes later, Ben Corbeil (Granby, QC) was able to put home a loose puck in front of the net to close the gap to one with 6:13 left to play.  

With 3:30 left to play, UPEI took a hooking penalty sending UNB to the power-play. But even with Richard pulled, UNB could not beat Capriotti and the Panthers would hold on to the 5-4 win. 

"Obviously we didn't get the start that we wanted tonight," said Willms. "They got a couple on us early and it felt like it almost took us to the third period to get our legs under us and start competing more. But full credit to [the Panthers]. They were the better team tonight and we just need to regroup and look forward to the week ahead." 

Saturday's win marked UPEI's first regular season victory at the Aitken Centre since January 21st, 2012.  

The Panthers move to 14-5-0-1 (W-L-OTL-SOL) and will travel to Halifax, on Wednesday, to face the Saint Mary's Huskies. 

"It's great to get the win here," said Shea. "It's never easy to win in this league so we'll take what we can get and hopefully we can keep this momentum going in the second half of the season." 

UNB falls to 16-3-0-1 and will host the Dalhousie Tigers on Friday. Game time is 7:00pm. 

"We need to focus on competing and winning the 50-50 battles," said Willms. "When we're at our best, we're winning those battles, we're hard on the forecheck and we're tough to play against." 

RECAP BY: Evan Richtsfeld, UNB Athletics / PHOTOS BY: James West