The Peninsula Panthers lost 5-2 on home ice against the Oceanside Generals on Monday night, dropping the ball for the first time in their bid to capture the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League crown.
The game 4 Generals win prevented a series sweep by the Panthers and sends the teams back to Parksville for Game 5 Wednesday night (March 30). A 2-1 Peninsula win there on Sunday had set up the potential for a sweep.
Team owner and general manager Pete Zubersky acknowledged the Panthers did not necessarily put their best foot forward in front of 600-plus fans at North Saanich’s Panorama Recreation Centre on Monday.
“We would have loved nothing more than to wrap up the series right here in front of our fans,” he said. “But the Oceanside Generals had different ideas and they came out harder and hungrier than we were and that made all the difference. I suppose it is human nature to try and achieve goals with the least amount of effort possible and I thought that was the case with some of our players (Monday).”
This said, Zubersky struck an optimistic note, noting that few in the organization expected the team to be up 3-1 after game 4. “We are in a good place. Now have to bring everything we have to get that final championship win.”
Monday’s home game marked a stark reversal from last Friday’s home contest, which saw the Panthers roll over the Generals 6-1.
The visitors opened the scoring with less than seven minutes left in the first period, then scored twice in three minutes midway through the second to build a 3-0 lead. A power-play goal by Kyle Brown at the 12:20 mark pulled the Panthers within two, but the visitors restored their three-goal lead on a goal by Braedan Leary late in the frame.
Fans hopes for a Panthers’ comeback were boosted early in the third period when Logan Speirs scored another power-play goal at 6:44 from Riley and Payton Braun to make it 4-2.
But Chase Heslop snuffed out any prospect of a dramatic comeback less than two minutes later, restoring the Generals’ three-goal-lead, which they preserved until the final horn.
Lukan Ashton started in net for the Panthers, but was replaced by Brady Kelly after the Generals went up 3-0, having stopped 11 of 14 shots. Kelly finished with nine saves on 11 shots. Ashton Sadauskas stopped 20 shots for the visitors.
Oceanside may have sent the series back to Parksville, but home ice has not been an advantage in this series, with the visitors winning three of four games.
Zubersky said the Panthers wanted to win it all on home ice, but will be ready to play come game 5.
“For us to close out this series we will need to pay the price,” he said. “Nothing from here on in will be easy. We will be better on Wednesday night and if the series goes further, Friday night will be electric in our barn.”
Game 6, if necessary, is set for 7:30 p.m. at Panorama while Game 7 would go Monday, April 4 in Parksville.
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