The Peninsula Panthers are heading to the finals of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League against the Oceanside Generals after beating the Kerry Park Islanders in overtime on Saturday.
Kyle Brown’s seventh playoff goal some six minutes into of Game 6’s first overtime period gave the Panthers a 4-3 game victory to seal their 4-2 series victory over the Kerry Park Islanders, who were more than full value during the series.
“Our group is so happy to get past the Islanders in this series,” said Pete Zubersky, general manager. “This one was an absolute dogfight.”
For three out of the six series games, of which two went into overtime, one goal was the margin of difference. Friday saw a double-overtime game by the Islanders, which denied the Panthers a series win on home-ice at North Saanich’s Panorama Recreation Centre and cut their lead. The Islanders then appeared on the verge of forcing a seventh and deciding game by racing to a three-nothing lead Saturday halfway through the second period on their home ice.
But general manager Pete Zubersky saw the game’s momentum turn when Brown scored on the power-play to narrow the gap heading into the third period, when Logan Speirs scored twice to tie the game.
“We believed in each other and said that we just needed to score the next goal to put the pressure on them,” Zubersky said of the Panthers’ comeback. “And when we tied it up you could tell our group just believed that we would win the game, albeit, it took overtime,” he said.
Zubersky describes the up-coming series against the Oceanside Generals as a coin flip. “Both groups are really playing well right now,” he said. In fact, the Generals reached the final by sweeping the Campbell River Storm, who had finished the regular season as the best team by far with 82 points, having lost just six games over 46 games. But like the Victoria Cougars in the South Division, the Campbell River Storm found out that playoffs have their own laws in crashing out.
RELATED: VIJHL: Generals sweep aside Storm 5-0 to capture North Division crown
Both the Panthers and the Generals finished the regular season with 68 points and Zubersky expects the two teams to be evenly matched. “We just jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire,” he said. This said, the Panthers are prepared for what lies ahead. “We have faced so much adversity this season and I really believe we will be ready and up to any task put in front of us.”
Game 1 of the series will take place Wednesday, March 23 in Parksville. The Panthers will host their first of at least two home games Friday, March 25 at North Saanich’s Panorama Recreation Centre. Game 3 and 4 will then alternate between Parksville (Sunday, March 27) and North Saanich (Monday, March 28). The Generals hold home-ice advantage with Game 7 (if needed) scheduled for Sunday, April 3. Parksville would also host Game 5 (if needed) on Wednesday, March 30 with Game 6 (if needed) scheduled for Friday, April 1 in North Saanich.
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