The UPEI Panthers have perennial AUS contenders; can they finally break through with an AUS championship?
Head coach: Tim Kendrick
Record in 2014: 15-5 (Second in AUS Conference)
Playoffs: AUS semifinals
Points scored per game: 92.6
Points allowed per game: 89.1
Key players: Tyler Scott, Brad States, Dut Dut, Lorenzo Parker
Key losses: Ellis Ffrench, Geoff Doane
The AUS conference will be difficult this season; just about every coach from the conference has said so, including UPEI Panthers head coach Tim Kendrick. In this case, the Panthers are certainly among the chief reasons why the league figures to be so competitive, with a roster very similar to the one that finished 15-5 in 2014-15. “I think it’s going to be a real struggle all year long, which again is great for the fans,” Kendrick tells NPH. “Every team is going to be very good and it’s going to be very important to win at home.” With a 9-1 record last season, UPEI acquitted itself well at home. Another place where the Panthers will hope to win? Any time they travel to Nova Scotia, which is home to three players and the head coach.
Key games: at Saint Mary’s, Nov. 15; VS Saint Mary’s, Jan. 9
VS Dalhousie, Jan. 23; at Dalhousie Feb. 20
It would be too harsh to say that the 2014-15 season was a failure for the 15-5 UPEI Panthers, but an AUS semifinal loss isn’t what head coach Tim Kendrick had in mind.
This season, he’s installed a new defensive system. “The system that we’re working with now better suits the players we have now. To not make changes and to sit on past laurels is a bit of a mistake,” he says. “The mistake you make as a coach is that you don’t look at things that have happened and don’t do anything about them.”
The change has already paid dividends, with the Panthers winning a pair of games against the StFX X-Men over the opening weekend. Likewise, Kendrick has added a group of young Panthers over the past two seasons, who will be perfectly capable of stepping up when the generation of Tyler Scott, Brad States and Lorenzo Parker moves on. “We want to keep that up,” he says. “We want to be a perennial AUS contender.”
It’s with a heavy heart that the Panthers have started the season, following the untimely death of UPEI physiotherapist Ralph Manning. “It was felt very hard here at the university,” Kendrick says, trailing off.
The head coach has one goal in mind for the Panthers this season, and that’s booking a ticket to British Columbia for the 2016 CIS Final 8—which really means that there are a few goals along the way, he says. First is making the playoffs; after the playoffs comes the most direct way to reach the national championships. “That’s what we’re really looking forward to,” he says, “we want to get our crack at that AUS championship.”