Four third period goals lift Panthers over X-Men

Courtesy Caitlyn McLeod
Courtesy Caitlyn McLeod

Antigonish, N.S. - In a battle of top-10 teams in U Sports hockey, the visiting UPEI Panthers (#9, 3-1-1) skated to a 7-3 victory over the StFX X-Men (#2, 3-2) Friday night at the Keating Centre. 

The Panthers scored four goals in the third period, three of them on the power play to seal the victory.

After the X-Men opened the scoring in the game, the Panthers replied with a pair of goals to take a 2-1 edge after one period.

At 4:03, with the man advantage, sophomore X-Men forward Holden Cook (Oshawa, ON) tallied, on assists from captain Eric Locke (Toronto, ON) and Kristoff Kontos (Penetanguishene, ON).

Just more than one minute later, at 5:31, freshman forward Cody Payne (Davie, FL) scored a short-handed, unassisted goal.

At 14:30, the Panthers took their first advantage, when sophomore forward Chad Labelle (Calgary, AB) sniped, from freshman center Sam Aulie (Lumsden, SK) and junior line-mate JC Campagna (Dublin, OH). 

The X-Men garnered a 14-11 edge in shots on goal in the first period.

Less than two minutes into the second period, at 1:35, the Panthers doubled their advantage. Sophomore RT Rice (Invermere, BC) was the marksman, on helpers from Aulie and freshman forward Riley Whittingham (Calgary, AB), to make it 3-1.

Junior centre Brent Andrews (Hunter River, PEI) almost gave the visitors a 4-1 lead, but X-Men goaltender Brandon Hope (Canton, MI) hugged the near post to thwart the effort.

While killing a penalty, the X-Men sliced the disadvantage in half, on an unassisted goal from Cook - his second of the game - at the 12-minute mark.

With the home side pressing for the equalizer, Panther goaltender Matt Mahalak (Monroe, MI) turned aside X-Men forward Mark Tremaine (Dartmouth, NS), on a wrap-around opportunity.

After breaking down the left wing, UPEI defenseman Derek Ryckman (Red Deer, AB) tested Hope, who stretched to make a glove side.

Heading to the final 20 minutes, the Panthers took a 3-2 lead to the locker room.

Early in the third period, sophomore forward Michael Clarke (London, ON) took a lead pass and skated into the Panther zone, but Mahalak made a glove save, off a hard wrist shot.

A short time later, on the power play, Locke notched the game-tying goal. Cook, with his third point of the contest, had the lone set-up, on the power-play tally, which came at the 1:44 mark.

The tie was short lived, with Payne restoring a Panther one-goal margin - 4-3 - less than two minutes later. Rice and Andrews chipped in assists.

With just more than 11 minutes remaining in regulation, the X-Men went to the power play. On the man advantage, sophomore forward Nathan Pancel (Ottawa, ON) walked in, off the blue line, but his shot sailed wide, while Mahalak, seconds later, steered aside a one-timer from defenseman Max Iafrate (Livonia, MI).

Shortly after keeping the X-Men from knotting the game, the Panthers made it 5-3. At 12:42, freshman Kurt Etchegary (St. John, NL), on assists from junior defenseman Austin Levi (Farmington Hills, MI) and freshman right winger Beau McCue (Pasco, WA), regained the UPEI two-goal edge.

On another man advantage, at 15:19, McCue gave UPEI their largest lead - 6-3 - on an assist from sophomore defenseman Ryan MacKinnon (Summerside, PEI).

With 41 seconds remaining in the game, Whittingham - with the third consecutive UPEI power play goal - made it 7-3 and sealed the deal. Aulie and Rice collected the assists.

Mahalak made 36 saves for the win, while Hope turned aside 34 shots in the loss.

Aulie earned first star and Subway player of the game honours, while Payne and Cook garnered second and third stars, respectively.

Both teams will return to action Saturday, Oct. 22, when the X-Men host the #1 and defending national champion UNB Varsity Reds, while the Panthers will travel to Halifax to face the Dalhousie Tigers.

Puck-drop for both games is 7 p.m.