Panthers’ Deschenes didn’t have far too look for help in goaltending career
UPEI goalie Marie-Soleil Deschenes looks to stay hot against Moncton.
Keeper of the crease
It was a natural fit for Marie-Soleil Deschenes to become a goalie.
The 21-year-old UPEI Panthers stopper, who is known as Sunshine, started playing hockey when she was four years old and became a goalie three years later.
“I always wanted to be a goalie,” Deschenes said before Tuesday’s practice.
Her father, Jocelyn, was a goalie, who played in Europe for a couple of seasons. He is now a full-time goalie coach in the Montreal area.
“I was really lucky to have him . . . that’s why I am here today because of him,” Deschenes said.
He helped her with both the fundamentals of the position and the mental side of the game.
The five-foot-three goalie said she is focused in the net and fast to the puck. “I’m not tall, but I play big.” She did just that last weekend when the Panthers, fighting for their playoff lives, won a pair of games in Halifax. They defeated Dalhousie 1-0 Saturday to snap a 12-game winless streak and Atlantic University Sport-leading Saint Mary’s 2-1 on Sunday.
Deschenes stopped 53 of 54 shots, including 13 saves in the third period against Dalhousie when the shots were 13-1.
The wins have the Panthers two points back of the final playoff spot.
“We were really focused, we worked hard every time we were on the ice and we played as a team,” Deschenes said. “With the first win, we got confident. Now everyone is confident and happy, so that helps a lot.”
The Panthers (4-9-3) look to keep it going tonight when they host the Moncton Aigles Bleues (9-6-1) at 7 p.m. at MacLauchlan Arena.
“I’ll try and do everything I can to win this game,” Deschenes said.
Head coach Bruce Donaldson know he will get her best each time she takes to the crease.
“She brings her A game each and every night and just gives, I think, the team confidence when there’s a big save that needs to be made, she’s there,” he said.
Deschenes left home to attend the Ontario Hockey Academy in Cornwall, Ont., for two years. She heard there was an opportunity to play at UPEI and came with her father for a week to check things out.
“I like small towns, so it really felt like home,” she said. “People here are so welcoming.”
She joined a Panthers squad coming off a conference title. Deschenes started the season at No. 3 on the depth chart and was the starter by the end of the season.
“Technically, she’s very strong and works extremely hard,” Donaldson said.
Donaldson said the team played well this weekend, but that’s in the rear-view mirror now.
“We are in playoff mode,” he said. “We have to look at every game as potentially our last because we dug ourselves quite a bit of a hole in the first half.”
He said UPEI has to play well defensively tonight, capitalize on its chances and continue the disciplined play it showed during the weekend.
Marie-Soleil Deschenes is in her fourth season as UPEI Panthers goalie.