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Peninsula Panthers on verge of winning VIJHL final

Panthers could sweep Generals with home ice advantage in Game 4 at Panorama Recreation Centre
Logan Speirs, here seen Friday, scored two goals Sunday as the Peninsula Panthers beat the Oceanside Generals 2-1 to win Game 3 of the VIJHL finals. They could sweep the Generals and win the league Monday night. (Courtesy Christian J. Stewart Photography)

The Peninsula Panthers will have a chance to win the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League championship at Panorama Recreation Centre Monday.

Two goals by Logan Speirs powered the Panthers to a 2-1 victory over their opponents in Game 3, for the team’s third win in a row. With a victory Monday, the Panthers would sweep the Generals to claim their first league championship since back to back titles in 2010 and 2011.

The Panthers won the opening game of the series against the Generals 2-1 Wednesday, before beating them 6-1 Friday at home. Heading into Game 3, Panthers’ owner and general Pete Zubersky said Oceanside would look to get back into the series, but it was the Panthers who drew first blood with Speirs scoring halfway through the opening period to put the visitors ahead.

Greyson Weme tied the game just before the mid-way points for the hosts, who played in front of 900-plus fans. But like last week, they saw the visitors walk away with a narrow victory, when Speirs broke the tie with less than eight minutes left.

RELATED: Peninsula Panthers deep-six Oceanside Generals to lead VIJHL finals by two games

Brad Kelly continued his good form in net for the Panthers, stopping 20 out of 21 shots, while his counterpart Ashton Sadauskas stopped 33 out of 35 shots before leaving the ice with less than one minute left to give the Generals an extra attacker.

But the Generals could not find an equalizer to force overtime, leaving the Panthers on the verge of claiming the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League title during an emotional season. Their long-time photographer Gordon Lee died in October 2021. As the season progressed, the Panthers improved steadily and reeled off winning streaks of seven and eight games respectively, only to see their teammate Grant Gilbertson die in a car crash on Jan. 3.

Players said at the time that their goal was to win the championship in his name and Monday’s game offers the first chance to fulfill that promise.

The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. at North Saanich’s Panorama Recreation Centre.

READ MORE: Greater Victoria hockey community in mourning after Panther player dies in crash

RELATED: ‘Our loyal friend’: Grant Gilbertson remembered at Peninsula Panthers pre-game ceremony

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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