Berisha joins Panthers for second semester
Beni Berisha is expected to make his UPEI debut tonight when the Panthers begin the second semester of their Atlantic University Sport (AUS) season.
The Panthers (8-6-1) host the St. F.X. X-Men (11-2-2) at 7 p.m. at MacLauchlan Arena.
Berisha played for the Summerside Western Capitals in 2011-12 and the right-winger from Mississauga, Ont., most recently played senior hockey in Dundas, Ont.
“He’s a typical UPEI player,” head coach Forbes MacPherson said. “He works really hard, he’s really fast, he’s first on the forecheck and he’ll add a lot of energy to our lineup.”
Berisha is the lone addition to the roster for the second semester while the Panthers will be without forwards Nick Czinder and Darcy Ashley for the rest of the season due to concussions.
“We were seeing some of their best hockey,” MacPherson said. “They were brought in to be topend guys and they were becoming top-end guys.”
It leaves the Panthers with 18 skaters and three goalies.
Other than Berisha, “It’s the same lineup we had in November,” MacPherson said, when “we had some success.”
The team went 6-3 in their final month of play in 2015, despite playing with a short bench many nights.
MacPherson said he likes the team’s strength in goal and on the blue-line and called his forwards a committed, hard-working and hard-to-play-against group.
The X-Men are ranked sixth in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS). UPEI handed them their only losses of the first semester, defeating them 5-3 on home ice on Oct. 17 and 2-1 on Nov. 21 in Antigonish, N.S.
“It’s an whole new season now,” MacPherson said. “They’re a top-end team and I’m sure they’re not happy with that 0-2 record against us, so they’ll be hungry coming in Friday night.”
The Panthers host Dalhousie Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Eastlink Centre as part of the hockey day in P.E.I. festivities.
The women’s Panthers will also play St. F.X., but in Antigonish, at 7 p.m.
UPEI (2-8-2) opened the season with two wins and then went 0-8-2, including five onegoal losses. It leaves them looking up from the basement of the seven-team conference, but only eight points out of second place.
“Our playoffs really probably start this weekend,” head coach Bruce Donaldson said. “We need to play a little desperate. We have to catch up.”
Marie-Soleil Deschenes gets the start in goal tonight.
The Panthers were the most penalized team in the conference during the first half. Donaldson said he wants his players to walk the fine line of playing aggressive without drawing penalties.
UPEI defeated the X-Women (6-5-1) at St. F.X. to start the season and then defeated Mount Allison.
The Panthers host Mount Allison Saturday at 4 p.m. in a quick turnaround.
Beni Berisha takes a shot during Thursday’s UPEI Panthers practice.