Harper with a goal in the 5-1 loss
By Thomas Becker of UPEI
There was a power surge at MacLauchlan Arena Friday night, as the Panthers put up five goals in the second period to overpower the Acadia Axemen 5-1.
Marcus Power was in the forefront of all the action, posting a hat trick in the decisive frame. Riley Whittingham and Cody Payne were the other two skaters to hit the back of the net, while Ryan MacKinnon and Darcy Ashley recorded two assists each.
“It’s great seeing all the hard work we put in this week paying off like that,” said Power, who was named Subway Player of the Game.
With only their second win in their last 10 games, Panthers head coach Forbes MacPherson was pleased with the way his team fought against a tough Acadia (15-6-2) squad. And with only a handful of weeks remaining in the season and a pair of teams chasing them for the final two playoff spots, he’s anxious to see how they’ll respond when they hit the ice again on Saturday and beyond.
“We have to find some consistency,” he said. “Some guys played some of their best hockey in awhile tonight, so that tells me two things – how well they can play, but how inconsistent they’ve been.”
The Panthers (6-16-1) were the ones on the attack early, but an errant pass by Alex McQuaid cost them. Marc McNulty picked him off in the neutral zone and found Stephen Harper in the left circle, who roofed it to give the Axemen a quick 1-0 edge.
A scary incident happened midway through the period, when a Panther defenceman tried to play the puck along the boards and was checked from behind by Remy Giftopoulos. Giftopoulos was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for the hit.
UPEI did little with the extended power play, as Robert Steeves was unbeatable in the frame, stopping all 10 shots he faced.
But once the puck dropped to begin the second period, Steeves wasn’t the same and the Panthers took full advantage of some shaky goaltending. They tied it up just 2:06 in, when Power redirected a pass from Tanner McCabe.
“He’s (Power) really taken on a leadership role and it’s in a quiet way,” MacPherson said. “He’s practicing harder than he ever has, he’s shown a calm confidence about our situation and then in games, he’s playing as consistent as any player we have.”
Less than three minutes later, Whittingham gave UPEI their first lead of the game 2-1. After initially ruling it no goal, the refs deliberated and decided that the puck in fact reached the back of the net.
The home team was just getting started after pulling ahead of Acadia. At 6:02, Gabe Guertler found Payne, who sniped it past Steeves, pushing the lead to 3-1.
Power was at it again with the man-advantage at 13:12, when MacKinnon found the forward in the right circle, who fired it past Steeves, sending him to the bench in favour of rookie Dawson Carty. Power then completed the hat trick two minutes later while shorthanded for the 5-1 advantage.
Matt Mahalak was challenged in the third period, where he made 11 of his 20 saves, but the goaltender remained poised to preserve the win.
The Panthers have a quick turnaround and welcome the Saint Mary’s Huskies to MacLauchlan Arena on Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.
“That’s the weak part of our game – being consistent. We have to bring it again tomorrow night,” Power said. “Forbie’s been stressing to stick to the process and not think about the results, so I think we’re going to be ready.”