Charlottetown, PEI- The UPEI Panthers are the No. 8 seed heading into the 2020 U SPORTS Cavendish Farms Women’s Hockey Championship. The Panthers will be looking for an upset when they play the No. 1 Alberta Pandas.
The Panthers had a program best season, going 20-7-1,good enough for third in the AUS.
They started the playoffs with a massive win over Moncton. Riding a four goal night from senior, Faith Steeves, the Panthers won the first game 8-0. Unwilling to hand over another goal, Moncton came back in the second game to give the Panthers a 1-0 loss. The Panthers took the third game in overtime 2-1.
The Panthers moved on to the semi-finals where they were stopped dead in their tracks by StFX. Though the Panthers were swept, there was never a moment where they weren’t in the game. They lost the first game 4-3 and the second 3-2. StFX went on to win the AUS.
The Panthers, as hosts, were automatically granted a U Sports berth.
The Panthers are more of a committee team than a team with a handful of star forwards. Their top six forwards have all scored at least 15 points in the regular season.Second year forward, Taylor Gillis lead the team in goals with 12. Fourth year, Kaylee Dufresne wasn’t far behind with 11.
Gillis continued to shine in the AUS playoffs, scoring four goals in five games. Steeves doesn’t need to have another four goal game to be dangerous, but she does need to get back into a habit of scoring. After Steeves’ four goals against Moncton, she contributed just one assist for the remainder of the playoffs. If she can elevate her game the same way she did in the first round, the Panthers could do some damage.
The Panthers biggest strength is undoubtedly between the pipes. Camille Scherger played all but five of the Panthers’ regular season games where she posted a .945 save percentage. Scherger has earned a place as one of the best goaltenders in Canada.
Scherger played all five playoff games for the Panthers. In the small sample size, she posted a .925 save percentage and a 1.80 goals against average. She also had to stop 111 shots from opposing teams.
Scherger may be able to steal a game for the Panthers, but going up against the No.1 team in the quarterfinals is going to require the defense to help her out.
The Panthers penalty kill was the second best in the AUS in the regular season and it was perfect in the playoffs. The Panthers did not allow a single power play goal against either Moncton or StFX despite spending more time in the penalty box than any other playoff team. This allows them to play with a physical edge knowing that their penalty kill can get them out of trouble if need be. They’re also able to score short handed, doing it three times in the regular season and once in the playoffs.
The Panthers have the opportunity to prove that they can hang with the best teams in Canada when they play the Alberta Pandas on March 13.
To watch the Panthers in this years tournament, you are able to watch them on the CBC Sports website, or the CBC Gem mobile app.
Cover Photo: UPEI Panther Athletics Dept.