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Arm­strong brings strong two-way game to Pan­thers blue-line

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JA­SON MAL­LOY

Nelson Arm­strong brings strong two-way game to Pan­thers blue-line.

Nelson Arm­strong is quiet and re­served in the dress­ing room, on the bus and around cam­pus.

“When he clicks his chin­strap, it’s game on,” UPEI Pan­thers men’s hockey coach Forbes MacPher­son said Tues­day. “All of a sud­den his com­mu­ni­ca­tion goes through the roof.”

He’s talk­ing to his team­mates on the bench or ask­ing ques­tions of the coach­ing staff.

MacPher­son said Arm­strong was re­ally good in his first sea­son with the Pan­thers in 201415, but has taken his game to an­other level this sea­son.

“When you break down Armie’s game, he’s just very hard to play against. He’s a nasty de­fence­man,” MacPher­son said.

The head coach com­pared Arm­strong to for­mer Pan­thers Matt Boyle and Har­ri­son McIver for the in­ten­sity he brings to the team.

“They play ev­ery shift like it’s their last. You can’t teach that, it’s DNA.” Arm­strong is all busi­ness. He played ju­nior A in his home­town of Peter­bor­ough, Ont., in Grade 11 and 12 be­fore go­ing to St. Lawrence Univer­sity in Can­ton, N.Y., on schol­ar­ship for a year and a half.

Arm­strong said things didn’t work out and he ended up go­ing home and play­ing a year and a half with the OHL’s Peter­bor­ough Petes.

A UPEI alum­nus, who is an NHL scout, con­nected Arm­strong and MacPher­son and the two spoke about him be­com­ing a Pan­ther.

“I came out to visit, re­ally liked it and de­cided to come,” Arm­strong said, not­ing the com­pet­i­tive team and small cam­pus were part of the fac­tors.

He looked at pro op­tions, but said the pull to com­plete the de­gree he started was too hard to pass up.

MacPher­son said he an­tic­i­pates the chance to play pro will be there for Arm­strong when the eco­nom­ics ma­jor grad­u­ates.

“He plays a pro game,” the coach said. “To me, he’s what a de­fence­man looks like and plays like. He com­petes su­per hard (and) he’s su­per in­tense.”

The Pan­thers have dressed five de­fence­men at times this sea­son, and Arm­strong has played 30-plus min­utes on oc­ca­sion.

He has gained the con­fi­dence of the coach­ing staff to play in any sit­u­a­tion.

He has of­ten been paired with fresh­man Ryan MacKin­non, who said Arm­strong has helped him tran­si­tion from ma­jor ju­nior to the univer­sity game. He added the se­cond-year Pan­ther means a lot to the squad.

“Whether it is con­tribut­ing of­fen­sively or keep­ing the puck out of our net, he seems to do it all,” MacKin­non said.

“He may not get all the credit he de­serves, but in the dress­ing room we all have faith in him. He’s def­i­nitely a guy we can rely on.”

The Pan­thers (10-9-2) host Monc­ton (8-11-2) tonight at 7 p.m. in the first of three games this week. UPEI has dealt with a slew of in­juries to key guys this sea­son, but finds it­self fifth in the eight-team con­fer­ence and bat­tling for one of the three re­main­ing play­off spots.

“We’ve gone through a lot of ad­ver­sity this sea­son, but we’ve been pretty re­silient,” Arm­strong said. “We’re def­i­nitely short guys, but ev­ery­body is play­ing hard and we’re man­ag­ing to squeak out wins and points.

“We’re do­ing pretty well con­sid­er­ing the amount, and sever­ity, of in­juries we’ve had.”

The Pan­thers com­plete the week with road games Fri­day at UNB and Satur­day at St. Thomas.

JA­SON MAL­LOY/THE GUARDIAN

Nelson Arm­strong is in his se­cond sea­son pa­trolling the UPEI Pan­thers blue-line. He has four goals and nine as­sists in 21 games this sea­son.

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