The Dalhousie University Tigers men’s hockey team snapped its season-opening three-game losing streak on Oct. 15, beating the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers 6-3 at the Halifax Forum.
The game was back and forth early on. The first period was busy with each team scoring three goals, but the Tigers managed to pull away with two goals in the second period. The hosts buried an empty netter in the final minutes of the third to seal the game.
Alexander MacDonald, the Tigers goaltender, kept his team in the game and made 40 saves on 43 shots. He made spectacular saves on multiple breakaways for the Panthers following Dal turnovers.
“It feels great,” MacDonald said about getting his first win as a Tiger. “I haven’t played in a while, so especially the first game back, it feels great.”
MacDonald didn’t play any games in the 2021-2022 season, despite being on the roster. This was his first start of the new season. He’s been the third-string goalie behind veterans Connor Hicks and Reilly Pickard, a pairing that has shared the Dal crease since the 2018-2019 campaign.
Head coach Chris Donnelly has now started all three of his goaltenders within the first four games of the season. Together, the netminders have averaged a below-expectations save percentage of .870 so far.
Setting the tone
Dal set the tone for the game early. Second-year forward Shaun Miller scored the game’s opening goal in the first minute.
“We’ve had a couple of tough games as a team, so getting out on the first shift and potting a goal really quick to ignite some energy is always big,” said Miller. “It’s a good feeling to know that you can lead a team early. It gets some life on the bench and I was happy to get that one.”
Both teams committed eight penalties each in the game, so they had to rely heavily on special teams. Dal’s power play capitalized on the scoreboard twice but gave up multiple shorthanded chances to the Panthers in the first period. MacDonald bailed out his team.
Dal’s penalty kill was sturdy, improving as the game went on. It was on full display when they killed a double minor in the third period. The Tigers gave up just one goal on the penalty kill despite taking eight infractions.
A long way to go
Even after beating the Panthers, Dal still has a long way to go to where they want to be.
As of Oct. 19, the team is last in the conference. The players are hopeful the win can help turn the season around.
“We’re trying to build our program up and we want to get to that national championship level. That’s basically our end goal,” said MacDonald.
Things are starting to look up for the team after some tough losses and penalty-ridden games. Miller thinks the win was what the team needed.
“We’ve had our challenges and we’ve had our ups and our downs through the first four games of the season,” he said. “Getting that first win under our belt is super exciting for the club and it injects some faith back into our lineup that we can come out here and win any night. We just have to believe in ourselves and keep pushing forward.”
Miller said the goal of each season is for it to be better than the last. That means an improvement from the team’s finish last year, where the Tigers fell in the AUS quarterfinals to the Université de Moncton Aigles Bleus.
“Personally, [I have] to keep producing offensively as well as be the best teammate I can possibly be,” said Miller, who has his eye on a spot in the 2023 U SPORTS U CUP Men’s Hockey Championship. The nationals tournament is hosted by UPEI. “As of right now, the record isn’t sitting great. But we’ve got a long way to go and a lot of work ahead of us, so we’ll keep dreaming big.”
The Tigers play their next four games against New Brunswick teams, two each against the University of New Brunswick Reds and Moncton.