The UPEI Panthers returned to the ice Monday, seven months to the day from the last time the men’s squad skated together at MacLauchlan Arena.
“It’s nice to be back at the rink and be in that environment,” head coach Forbes MacPherson said Monday night.
The Panthers had not been on the ice since Feb. 14 when Keith Getson scored in double overtime as the Saint Mary’s Huskies eliminated UPEI in the first round of the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) playoffs.
A lot has happened since then.
The coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic shut down all sports at the university in mid-March, but teams are now starting to get back to practising. The AUS has announced there will be no games in 2020 with a decision in the fall on whether teams will play contests beginning in January.
“We’re being optimistic,” MacPherson said. “We’re planning and preparing to play games (in 2021) until they tell us otherwise.”
MacPherson said the first practice was similar to an initial session in previous years except a few players were still in quarantine after arriving from outside the Atlantic bubble. They will join their teammates after their 14 days is up.
“Typically, … you might have one or two (practices) that are very similar and then you really get right into your systems and strategies right away and introducing a lot of the concepts to the new guys,” MacPherson said.
But this year, with the regular season not starting in late September, the Panthers will spend the next few weeks focusing more on fitness level, skill development, off-ice training and team building than they would have in past seasons.
Here's a look at the UPEI Panthers men’s hockey team’s incoming class, as well as where the players finished last season:
F Brodie MacArthur Summerside (junior A)
F Carson MacKinnon Summerside (junior A)
F Jaden Peca Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
D Ian Smallwood South Shore (junior A)
D Sean Allen* Wichita (ECHL)
G Shane Farkas Victoria (WHL)
G Roman Bengert Lake Superior State (NCAA)
* Allen will be a red shirt with the team this year after playing professionally in 2019-20.
“We’re going to use this time to take advantage of those areas,” MacPherson said.
A year ago, the Panthers were announced as the host squad for the U Sports national championship from March 17-21, 2021. The Panthers are hopeful they will get that opportunity but will have to wait for a decision later this year from U Sports.