CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – If the UPEI Panthers are playing, it won’t be hard to find Ryan MacKinnon.
Just check the ice and there’s a good chance No. 46 is out there.
The third-year Panthers defenceman is averaging more than 30 minutes of ice time a game — that’s half a regulation hockey game.
“I can’t remember the last time I played this much,” MacKinnon said after Tuesday’s practice. “I like doing it. It’s a great opportunity for me. It would be nice to get a couple of bodies back, but for the meantime it’s going well.”
There are a couple of reasons MacKinnon is seeing so much ice.
The Panthers are thin on experience on the blue-line and have been hit by injuries, illness and suspensions.
The other reason is: MacKinnon is good.
“He plays very well in all situations,” head coach Forbes MacPherson said. “He’s well conditioned to handle it. We are thin with injuries and experience back there, so we’re just leaning on him. . .
“We feel we want him out there as much as possible.”
The team is monitoring his ice time, but the university game makes it more possible to handle heavier minutes than in junior with teams not playing three games in three days.
But MacKinnon is also aware of what he needs to do after playing a game to put him in a position to be ready the next night for more of the same. He stays in touch with Charlottetown Islanders trainer Kevin Elliott to learn more about recovering from the first game.
“Anytime you play those kind of minutes, the first thing you want to do is just start getting the fluids back into ya,” MacKinnon said, noting another key is to get the lactic acid out of the legs. “And then, obviously, go home and get as much of mom’s pasta in to ya as you can and try and hit the sack.”
MacKinnon has put in the time and work during the off-season to prepare him for this year. It included working with other professional hockey players and the staff at Dynamic Fitness, as well as working on his skating with Islanders assistant coach Brad MacKenzie.
“There were a couple of early mornings, leaving the house at 3:30, 4 a.m., to drive to Charlottetown and get on the ice — and get on the ice with no pucks, just skating,” MacKinnon said.
But he knows it is what is needed to help him get to the next level and fulfil his goal of playing pro.
The Summerside native left home when he was 13 to attend Notre Dame in Wilcox, Sask. He captained both the Rimouski Oceanic and the Islanders and took some university courses during his junior days. It has him set to graduate with his business degree in his third year at UPEI.
MacPherson said they are lucky to have a guy like MacKinnon, who just “gets it” as part of its leadership group.
“He is very much respected and admired by his peers,” the bench boss said. “It’s guys like him who reflect the culture. We’re definitely in great hands when it comes to our leadership group because of guys like him.”
MacPherson said MacKinnon does come up consistently as pro teams check in on players.
MacKinnon isn’t worried about that. He just wants to keep doing his job to help his team compete each night for a win.
Need to know
Who – A third-year member of the UPEI Panthers men’s hockey team.
Hometown – Summerside.
Position – A six-foot defenceman.
Did you know? MacKinnon was part of the conference’s all-rookie team in 2015-16.
MacKinnon: “Anytime a coach like Forbie has confidence in a player, it definitely helps them out. He’s given me every opportunity in the world to succeed, and I can’t thank him enough for that.”
Coach Forbes MacPherson: “Ryan has been a horse for us. He’s logging big minutes, playing key minutes, playing with a different D partner, essentially every shift. . .. He is like the perfect student-athlete, role model, community guy. However many boxes there are, he checks every one.”
Season GP G A Pts.
2017-18 14 4 8 12
2016-17 24 0 5 5
2015-16 28 7 7 14
2014-15 64 10 40 50
2013-14 66 4 18 22
2012-13 66 5 17 22
2011-12 56 1 12 13