The Peninsula Panthers are starting to turn the tables on their arch-rivals Victoria Cougars with their recent 4–1 win Thursday night.
The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League club won their third straight game against Cougars, who had earlier dominated their head-to-head match ups. The match against the Cougars was notable for the fact that they did not necessarily rely on their three big scorers (Tanner Wort, Riley Braun and Josh Lingard) in their road victory.
While Wort and Lingard combined for four points, the Panthers also received secondary scoring during the game, which saw them take an early two-nothing lead less than seven minutes into the contest. The Cougars pulled one back in the second period, but Drew Coughlin, who entered Thursday’s game with six goals in 13 games, restored the Panthers’ two-goal margin less than two minutes later. Wort’s empty-net goal late in the third period concluded the scoring.
The Panthers then followed their winning performance against the league’s top team with a 5-3 victory against the Oceanside Generals, the team chasing them in the standings.
Fans at Panorama Recreation Centre saw two goals from Tanner Wort and overall dominant performance as the Panthers outshot the Generals 34-26.
With their two victories, the Panthers edged within three points of the Cougars, who have two games in hand, while distancing themselves from the rest of the field. This said, team officials still believe the team can play better.
“We are really trying to get into the playoff mode and I thought this group took a big step towards that end this past weekend,” said Pete Zubersky, general manager. “Winning in the playoffs is about eliminating mistakes. We gave up four goals in two games against the [first and third-placed teams] in the league. I thought we could have cut the Generals down to one or two at the most, there is still work to be done.”
The Panthers also took care of some business off the ice, as the Panthers added 20-year-old goaltender Andrew Rocha, who has played Junior A in his native Ontario for the past three seasons. The club is also expected to sign an additional player in preparation for the playoffs.
“There are four or five teams that have a legitimate chance to win in the playoffs and advance to the BC Championships and we know we are one of them,” said Zubersky. “It’s important to keep winning games right now so that we get the best possible seeding in the playoffs and so that we move into the second season on a roll. We improved a lot on paper the past few days and now it will be getting everyone into and accepting their roles.”
The Panthers return to action Friday, when they host the Saanich Braves at Panorama Recreation Centre, with the puck dropping at 7:30 p.m.
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