Summerside’s Carson MacKinnon adjusting to playing in AUS with UPEI Panthers
CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI — Like most players, Carson MacKinnon’s move to the Atlantic University Sports Men’s Hockey Conference was a process.
The 23-year-old son of Summerside’s John and Mona MacKinnon is in his second U SPORTS qualifying season with the UPEI Panthers and is quickly earning the right to take on more responsibilities.
“Carson got off to a good start,” said Panthers head coach Forbie MacPherson. “He’s got really good skill, really high hockey IQ and with our team we like to play a really fast pace and he was able to make that adjustment and play at that pace.
“I feel like he can continue to grow and help us in more areas. He’s been productive from an attacking perspective this year and wanted to contribute from that perspective.”
MacKinnon averaged 10 points, including three goals, in 17 regular-season games with the Panthers last year, including 16. The left winger averages more than a point per game with seven assists, including five.
“It’s definitely a different league than juniors,” said MacKinnon, who had four points in back-to-back UPEI wins over Saint Mary’s and Acadia last weekend. “You’re playing against grown men right now. The first year takes a bit of getting used to, but overall I think the first year went well and I’m feeling more comfortable with each game now.
“Of course it’s a big year for our program to have national teams this year so we’re hoping for a big year in the regular season and the playoffs.”
Before joining the Panthers, MacKinnon played 4 ½ seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with Rimouski and Gatineau. He returned home to join the Summerside Western Capitals of the Maritime Junior Hockey League for the latter half of his 20-year season, but that year was cut short in March 2020 due to COVID-19.
MacKinnon then joined the Panthers, who only practiced during the 2020-21 season due to no league game being played due to COVID-19.
“He’s been in the locker room, he’s been in the group, he’s connected to the culture,” MacPherson said. “He’s quiet, but he has a strong personality.
“He’s a huge part of our culture right now and we expect him to continue to grow and get great things out of him as the season continues.”
The opportunity to stay home to play varsity hockey in front of family and friends is not one to be missed by MacKinnon, who has followed in his older brother Ryan’s footsteps and wears the Panthers jersey.
“I’m very proud of it (playing with the Panthers) having watched UPEI games on the weekends growing up,” MacKinnon said. “My brother who comes here obviously watches him play and how they hit it off and have the nationals this year, it’s going to be a special year.
“We have a long way to go but I’m looking forward to having a good year overall and working towards it in the right way.”
MacKinnon said he relies heavily on his hockey sense on the ice.
“I’m not considered the biggest or the strongest in the league so I had to find different ways to adapt and use my hockey sense, my speed, put my body in certain situations to make sure I avoid the extra Hit by someone a little bigger,” said MacKinnon, an economics student.
A focus for MacKinnon is playing a harder game. MacKinnon said this is a play style the Panthers thrive on as they want to be a team that isn’t fun to play against.
MacPherson believes adding this style to MacKinnon’s game will open up more possibilities.
“It’s an area that we’ve spoken to him about and will continue to push the envelope,” MacPherson said. “He’s a guy who can play with top players because he can see the ice really well, he’s good at placing the puck, he has an above-average shot.
“As he gets into the areas where he’s playing a heavier game, he’s going to win more puck fights and increase the time that the puck is on his stick and he’s going to be able to do things where he’s really good.”
Jason Simmonds is Sports Editor at the SaltWire Network in Prince Edward Island. He can be reached by email at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @JpsportsJason.