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Panthers plough Tigers’ playoff hopes

By Dylan MatthiasStaff Contributor

The Dalhousie Tigers missed a tremendous opportunity last Friday – several in fact – losing 5-3 to the visiting UPEI Panthers. With only four games remaining in their season, including two against the unbeaten and number-one-ranked UNB, the Tigers needed to pick up points to hold off Moncton in the battle for the last AUS playoff position.
“We just can’t make the other team pay. When we take a penalty, they make us pay. Our powerplay’s just not clicking right now,” said Tigers coach Pete Belliveau after the game.
The Tigers missed seven powerplay opportunities in the game, including four in the third period when they trailed the Panthers. Late in the period the Tigers had a five-on-three advantage but couldn’t convert.
“We got our chances, we just couldn’t score on the powerplay … that’s why we lost,” said the Tigers’ centre Daniel Bartek, who had one of the Tigers three goals. Bartek, who represented the Czech Republic at the 2008 IIHF World Juniors, has seven goals in 25 this season.
Panthers’ net-minder Wayne Savage was a big part of the UPEI penalty kill, backing the Panthers up when the Tigers were able to break down their strict positional play. The Tigers never quite sorted out the UPEI attack, though, and gave up several bad goals. Cory Vitarelli beat Tigers’ goalie Josh Disher with a wrist shot 42 seconds into the game. Vitarelli also scored the Panthers’ second goal of the first period by skating into the slot from the boards before winding up a massive slapshot that beat Disher. None of the Tigers bothered to stop his advance.
Dalhousie solved UPEI’s Wayne Savage in the second period, getting three goals past him in less than four minutes, but not without conceding another to Vitarelli on a lethal powerplay move. A bad change gave Dalhousie their first, with Benjamin Breault breaking in two-on-one before passing to Patrick Sweeney for a tap in. Breault, a 2006 Buffalo Sabres draft-pick, has led Dalhousie offence with seven goals in 11 games since coming to Dal in January from the ECHL’s Florida EverBlades.
The Tigers’ second and third goals were both spearheaded by Jeff Larsh. He powered his way through a clogged neutral zone to clear space for line-mate Jordan Gagne. Gagne scored on his first chance, firing a shot past Savage, but missing his second chance. Bartek collected it behind the net and faked Savage before tucking it in on a wrap-around. Vitarelli’s hat trick came just before Gagné’s first, off a lethal back-door play from Thomas Stryncl and Jared Gomes on a powerplay. At the end of the flurry, both teams were tied at three.
Despite out-shooting the Panthers all game (and ending up with a final shot advantage of 42-30) the Tigers could not keep them off the board. A horrible pinch by Josh Manning left Matt Carter alone in front of Disher at the end of the second period, and Carter easily recorded his 30th point of the year with a goal. The final blow came as the Tigers tried to rally in the third. PEI’s top powerplay line worked their backdoor play again, with Stryncl passing to Gomes at the far post before Gomes found Vitarelli cross-crease, leaving him an open net.

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