The UPEI Panthers are going to the Atlantic University Sport men’s hockey semifinals for the first time since 2016.
Matthew Mancina stopped all 29 shots he faced while Gabe Guertler scored two goals, including the series winner, Saturday in a 4-0 road victory over the Universite de Moncton Aigles Bleus. The Panthers won the best-of-three quarter-final 2-0 and will now face top-ranked UNB.
“We were excited to have a real good performance in Moncton and wrap it up in two,” Panthers head coach Forbes MacPherson said.
While the Panthers coaching staff didn't feel it was under siege during the quarter-final there were key moments where it needed a save and Mancina delivered.
“They had a stretch in the second period where we had consecutive penalties,” MacPherson said. “You’re best PKer is your goalie and Mancina really stepped up in those moments.”
The first two games of the best-of-five semifinal will take place Thursday and Friday in Fredericton, N.B., with Game 3 at MacLauchlan Arena on Monday. Games 4 and 5, if required are scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 26, in Charlottetown and Thursday, Feb. 28, in Fredericton, respectively. All games begin at 7 p.m.
MacPherson wouldn’t tip his hand but said they will have a plan in place to play the Varsity Reds.
“The key is that the players are excited about the plan, buy into the plan and we’ll go over and attempt to execute it,” he said.
The head coach said he is pleased with how the players adjusted through the season.
No decision has been made on which goalie starts Game 1.
“We’re very confident with both,” MacPherson said. “(Simon) Hofley has had some very good games against UNB this year. . . Obviously, Mancina had a great series against Moncton and certainly did his job.”
Saturday in Moncton, Beau McCue and Riley Whittingham also scored in the victory. Sam Aulie, Tanner McCabe and Doug Blaisell each had an assist.
The Panthers scored three goals in 1:22 of the first period and Guertler iced it with an empty-net goal with seven seconds to play in the game.
“We were able to capitalize on a couple of back-to-back odd-man rushes and credit our guys for finding the back of the net,” MacPherson said. “We were just fortunate enough to take advantage of those grade-A opportunities.”
Etienne Montpetit stopped 24 shots in the loss. Both teams were 0-for-4 on the power play.