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Panthers facing must-win game tonight when they host St. FX

UPEI Panthers centre Taylor Gillis, left, takes a faceoff against St. FX X-Women centre Lydia Schurman during the 2019-20 Atlantic University Sport regular season. Both are from Summerside.
UPEI Panthers centre Taylor Gillis, left, takes a faceoff against St. FX X-Women centre Lydia Schurman during the 2019-20 Atlantic University Sport regular season. Both are from Summerside. - Jason Malloy
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Bruce Donaldson isn’t worried about his players competing in a must-win game to extend their playoff run.

The UPEI Panthers host the St. FX X-Women tonight at 7 p.m. at MacLauchlan Arena in Game 2 of their best-of-three Atlantic University Sport women’s hockey semifinal. A UPEI victory tonight would force a deciding game Thursday in Antigonish, N.S.

“We’ve kind of had our backs against the wall all year. … I don't feel like we see this any different,” Donaldson said Monday. “The dressing room knows it can compete at this level. We just have to clean up a few little pieces and work a little smarter in given situations.”

UPEI fell behind 3-0 15 minutes into Saturday’s opener, but battled back to get within one with about two minutes to play before losing 4-3.

The X-Women haven’t lost a regular-season game since Nov. 24, so getting an early lead tonight could be beneficial for the Panthers.

“You need a good, strong start with lots of pressure in their end and scoring opportunities,” Donaldson said, “(to) let them know, right from the drop of the puck, that we’re here to play and the intention is to force a Game 3.”

UPEI’s Kaylee Dufresne, a fourth-year forward from Orleans, Ont., is a game-day decision with a pulled quad. It would be a big loss for the Panthers, if she can’t play tonight, but UPEI has to take a longer view on the situation with the team hosting nationals March 12-15.

“That’s really the priority,” Donaldson said. “We absolutely want to move on and get into a conference final but, at the end of the day, if we feel we’re jeopardizing a player that is a key piece for the sake of a game then we’ll definitely err on the side of caution.”

The Panthers are looking for another boost from playing in front of a supportive crowd at MacLauchlan Arena.

“The local support has been amazing,” Donaldson said.

P.E.I. minor hockey players will be admitted to the game free of charge if they are wearing their team jersey. Parents can get in for $5 if they present the Panther app at the ticket table.

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