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Kirwan excited to play first game with Panthers tonight in Halifax

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Luke Kirwan will make his season debut tonight for the UPEI Panthers.

The 21-year-old Syracuse, N.Y., native committed to the Panthers about a year ago while playing with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He attended the Detroit Red Wings training camp this fall and was with the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL when he decided to join the Panthers in early October. It was after the deadline to be eligible to play in the first semester, but Kirwan skated with the team and got up to speed with how the squad plays.

Now it’s game time.

“It was a little bit of a tease watching the guys play . . .  just sitting up in the stands, but finally looking forward to getting back on the ice,” he said after Monday’s practice. “I’m looking forward to my career here.”

UPEI (9-6-1) starts the second semester with a makeup game tonight at 7 p.m. in Halifax against the Dalhousie Tigers (4-13-0).

RELATED: Click here for more photos from Monday's practice.

It will be Kirwan’s first game since his junior career ended in March. He’s not putting any pressure on himself, just looking to play his game and help the team win.

The six-foot-two, 220-pound forward describes himself as a big, strong winger who likes to shoot the puck and score goals.

That’s music to the ears of head coach Forbes MacPherson.

“He skates very well,” he said. “He has a big shot, a really good release, so there’s potential there that he could play in a top-six, top-nine role. . .

“We’re going to want him to play a specific way in terms of being first on forecheck, turning pucks over and creating havoc in the offensive zone. If he’s doing those things, then I see no reason why he wouldn’t be a top-six player this league.”

The Panthers are giving him the pieces to help him be successful right out of the gate, matching him with two of their top scorers in Kameron Kielly and Gabe Guertler.

“It’s an honour. (They’re) two great players. Everybody here is great,” he said. “It’s all about the team. We all have to do our part.”

While he wasn’t able to play in the first semester, Kirwan was here and got to see the rest of the league. It is hoped that will help the transition every player goes through when moving from junior to university hockey.

“It’s very fast and competitive and that’s great,” Kirwan said.

The Panthers are hoping to pick up where they left off in December, having won four of their last five games.
“We really liked the way we finished our last few weeks of the first half and we have to find a way to recapture that magic,” MacPherson said.

There isn’t any easing back into action for the Panthers as two postponed games from the first half will be made up tonight and next Wednesday. It means six games in 10 days, but MacPherson said they are on the ice every day and most players are used to a similar schedule from their junior careers.

Trio of Panthers, Islanders games set for this weekend

Hockey Day on Prince Edward Island is a two-day affair this season with a hat trick of games.

It starts Friday at 7 p.m. when the UPEI Panthers host the Acadia Axemen in Atlantic University Sport men’s hockey action at MacLauchlan Arena. It continues Saturday with a pair of games at the Eastlink Centre. The Panthers host Mount Allison in women’s action at 4 p.m. and the Charlottetown Islanders host the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles at 7 p.m..

A ticket for all three games is $20. It is $10 for season ticket holders of the Panthers or Islanders. Tickets can be purchased at the Eastlink Centre box office.

This week's games


Women’s hockey

7 p.m. – St. Thomas at UPEI (exhibition).
Men’s hockey

7 p.m. – UPEI at Dalhousie.


Men’s hockey

7 p.m. – Acadia at UPEI*


Women’s hockey

4 p.m. – Mount Allison vs. UPEI at Eastlink Centre*

Women’s basketball

6 p.m. – Cape Breton at UPEI.

Men’s hockey

7 p.m. – Saint Mary’s at UPEI.

Men’s basketball

8 p.m. – Cape Breton at UPEI.


Women’s hockey
3:30 p.m. – St. Thomas vs. UPEI at the Eastern Kings Arena in Souris.

* Hockey Weekend on P.E.I. games

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