Saanich Braves #21 Kyle Mace sends Panthers #15 Matt Lawrence for a loop. Lawrence and his mates would land on their feet as they bounces the Braves 2-1 in VIJHL action last Friday night. (Gordon Lee Photography)

Panthers upended by Nanaimo, but score a win against Saanich

NORTH SAANICH — In what was one of the most highly entertaining games in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) this season, the Peninsula Panthers took a bite out of the suddenly red hot Saanich Braves, 2-1 on Fri., Jan. 19 in front of a large crowd at the Panorama Recreation Centre.

It was never in the bag until the final buzzer had sounded, but that was followed by a brouhaha as the game ended.

The Braves (20-15-2-2) came into the contest on a high and were looking for more of the same in an important affair between the two clubs. They opened the scoring at the 5:19 mark of the first period when Braves’ power forward Zack Guerra deflected a shot that went through the pads of Chris Akerman, who was making the start between the pipes.

The Panthers’ (17-21-0-1) Josh Lingard evened the score with just over four minutes remaining in the second stanza and that set up a thrilling final 20 minutes of action.

The local Cats carried the play coming down the stretch. With 12 minutes remaining in the game, 16-year-old Riley Braun deflected a Shota Yamamoto shot between the legs of Braves’ starter Riley Mathieson, a tally that would prove to the winner.

Akerman and Mathieson were perfect the rest of the way and when the final buzzer sounded, the “Cats” were the ones walking off with the all important two points.

The game was fast and hard-hitting and the two teams decided that there was not enough time to bang and crash during the 60 minutes. At the buzzer, a Braves’ forward ran at Panthers’ defenceman Braeden Hansen and this brought all players on the ice into a short melee. But cooler heads prevailed and the Panthers celebrated in front of the appreciative and partisan home crowd.

“The fans got their money’s worth tonight,” quipped an excited Pete Zubersky, Panthers’ General Manager. “We were missing three or four really key guys but our coach had our group well prepared and it showed. We battled for a full 60 minutes out there and we were rewarded.

On Saturday night, the Panthers ventured up to Nanaimo to face the Buccaneers (31-7-0-1) and were dropped 9-2 by the VIJHL leaders.

“They have a good team but I think we ran out of steam from the previous night. We had a few of our key guys banged up or ejected during the game and it just snowballed on us.”

The Panthers are back in action Thursday night (Jan. 25) when they play the Victoria Cougars (21-16-2-1) in Esquimalt and will be right back at the Panorama Recreation Centre Friday night when they welcome in the visiting Kerry Park Islanders (18-18-0-5) at 7:30 p.m.

— News Staff

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