CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The UPEI Panthers will get a sneak peek at their first-round playoff opponent this weekend.
The Panthers (8-17-1) hit the road today for Wolfville, N.S., to play the Acadia Axemen (15-9-2) at 7 p.m. before finishing the weekend in Halifax Saturday against the Saint Mary’s Huskies (16-8-2). The Huskies and Axemen are battling for third place in the Atlantic University Sport men’s hockey standings while the Panthers and Dalhousie Tigers (8-18-1) are tied for the fifth seed with two weeks left in the regular season.
“It’s a good test and it’s good preparation as well,” Panthers head coach Forbes MacPherson said Thursday. “No matter what, two weeks from (last Wednesday), we’re going to be in one of those buildings for Game 1.”
The Panthers are going to meet a tough team in the first round with both Saint Mary’s and Acadia ranked in the U Sports top 10 and each team having a tough rink to play in.
UPEI is building towards the playoffs, and MacPherson said he has liked the consistency his team has played with during the past few weeks.
“Guys are really committed to a certain style of play,” he said, “and we’ve been getting results because of it.”
Defenceman Austin Levi returned to the Panthers lineup a week ago from a shoulder injury.
“We felt he jumped in pretty good,” MacPherson said. “He did a good job and we're hoping to see him elevate his game a little bit more this weekend.”
Levi’s return gave the Panthers six defencemen for the first time in a while, but they were back to five midway through the game when Alex McQuaid sustained a shoulder injury. He joins Bobby Zinkan, Chad Labelle, Matthew Mancina and captain Brent Andrews among the injured Panthers.
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” MacPherson said. “It’s a physical game, and injuries happen. We just seem to be bombarded with them this year.”
Matt Mahalak gets the start tonight in the Panthers crease.
“He’s certainly doing a great job for us,” the head coach said. “He’ll continue to drive the bus.”
7 p.m. – St. Thomas at UPEI.
7 p.m. – UPEI at Acadia.
6 p.m. – Memorial at UPEI.
7 p.m. – Mount Allison at UPEI.
7 p.m. – UPEI at Saint Mary’s.
8 p.m. – Memorial at UPEI.
1 p.m. – Memorial at UPEI.
3 p.m. – Memorial at UPEI.