The Peninsula Panthers lost two games in Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) action over the weekend but still have a near-perfect record through the first 10 games of the season.
On Friday (Oct. 7) night, the Panthers overcame a two-goal deficit in the third period to push their home game against the Victoria Cougars into overtime, only to lose it in the extra frame by a score of 5-4. That loss snapped the team’s winning streak of eight games since the beginning of the season – the Panthers’ best start in a quarter-century. On Sunday night, the Panthers led late in the third period on the road, only to see the Westshore Wolves tie the game at three, then win the shootout.
Ryan Grambart, Matthew Seale, Tanner Banks and Tristan Rosenblood scored for the Panthers Friday night. Julien Phillips, Ethan Lingard and Kieran Smith scored Sunday night. Brady Kelly stopped 22 out of 27 shots to take the loss Friday night, while his twin Mason stopped 26 out of 29 shots through the three regular periods and the overtime.
The Panthers faced a number of injuries heading into the weekend and one key player — Payton Braun — has been travelling almost every other week to the United States for university entrance interviews, while also attending the University of Victoria.
Owner and general manager Pete Zubersky said these demands have taken a toll on Braun and by extension on the Panthers’ top line of Grambart, Banks and Braun. Zubersky said the line did not have a great weekend. “(But) they have really carried the team thus far in the offensive department and so deserve an off-day or two,” said Zubersky.
He also acknowledged that the team’s goal-tending tandem did not play their best over the weekend. “(But) I know that the Kelly twins will be chomping at the bit to get right back at it this Friday when we host the Kerry Park Islanders and then again on Saturday when we travel to Port Alberni for a date with the Bombers.”
As the 48-game VIJHL season approaches the quarter-mark, the Panthers have secured 18 out of 20 possible points as their two losses over the weekend came during overtime or in the shoot-out. Zubersky said the Panthers could have won both games, but also tried to keep things in perspective.
“We are not going to sneak up on anyone at this point,” he said. “We lead the (league), are the defending (champions) and are getting the best the other team has to offer every single night. We have to play at the top of our game to come out with points on a nightly basis and that will pay dividends come playoff time.”
The Panthers play next against the Kerry Park Islanders on Friday (Oct. 14) at 7:30 p.m. at the Panorama Recreation Centre.
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