Brassard’s return buoys Panthers ahead of U SPORTS

CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI – The UPEI Panthers are three days away from hosting the U SPORTS U CUP for the first time in 53 years dating back to 1970—the first year the university opened—and will be getting one of their X-factors back just in time.

On Jan. 28 the Panthers would not only lose the game the Acadia Axemen but also lose their top defencemen, Matt Brassard, who broke his thumb midway through the game. Throughout the season, he’d been one of the nation’s best blueliners, earning a gold medal at the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games with Team Canada.

Since then, the Panthers have struggled, finishing the last four games with a .500 record, and then losing in the first round of the AUS playoffs to the Moncton Aigles Bleus in a hard fought three games.

(UPEI Panthers Athletics)

Brassard who was dealing with the broken thumb wanted to be out there on the ice with his teammates but also understood there was more at stake than just the AUS this year.

“It was tough watching, you know it was a really disappointing outcome but at the end of the day there’s nothing I could have done, I had my hand in a cast,” Brassard said. “I wish I could’ve been out there, but it is what it is and now we just got to work and focus on that first game of nationals March 17.”

For the Panthers, an early AUS elimination may just be a blessing in disguise. Brassard has had more then five weeks now to heal his broken thumb and in total will be just under seven weeks when the Panthers play March 17.

 “I’ve been able to stay on the ice this whole time, which has been good to keep my legs and my conditioning up,” he said. “I wouldn’t be playing if I wasn’t 100%, so I’m going to be at 100% by then (March 17). I’m working everyday with physio and doing all of these exercises; everything I’ve been told to do, I’m doing double.”

It’s crazy to think that only just over a month ago the Panthers were as high as fifth on the U SPORTS hockey top-10 after a great first half of the season, seeing the team go 12-5-1, good for second in the AUS standings.

The Panthers started the season’s second half with two wins in their first two games and doing something they haven’t done in a decade — winning on the road against UNB. Still, with players gone for a great opportunity at the FISU World University Games (Brassard and TJ Shea) and slew of injuries in the second half, the team lost all momentum.

(Rich Abney/U SPORTS)

Now 22 days since being knocked out of the playoffs Brassard and his teammates feel like they have gained that momentum back and feel like the message is clear.

“The message isn’t that were going to have to sit back and play the best team, the best team is going to have to play us,” he said.

“I don’t think they’re going to know what’s in store for them (Calgary Dino’s) and it’s not going to be like last year where Acadia is hosting and a team comes in and beats them 7-0, there is no way that is going to happen with us.”


The Panthers and Brassard know that nobody likes coming to P.E.I. knowing they have to play them in front of their fans that they play well in front of.

Now, with an electric crowd looming in the near future, the Panthers get set to take on the Eastlink Centre and the bright lights of the U SPORTS National Championship. All of that, with their top defenceman in toe, adding an invorgrating factor to an already determined group.

“Nobody likes coming to P.E.I. to play us,” Brassard saiud. “We play really well at home and that crowd is going to electric on March 17.”

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