The Peninsula Panthers’ stay in the penthouse of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL)’s South Division was a short one after losing against their likely playoff opponents, the Westshore Wolves.
Friday’s night game against the visitors was tied at 1-1 when the Panthers found themselves on the powerplay, with an excellent chance to take the lead. “But we turned over a puck just inside their blueline while on the powerplay and allowed a breakaway resulting in a short handed goal,” said Pete Zubersky, owner and general manager.
With less than nine minutes left, the Panthers found themselves trailing on home ice, only to run into an opposing goaltender, who stood on his proverbial head. Jacob Hadar ended up stopping 40 out of 41 shots and received some assistance toward the end of the game late on when the Panthers’ Riley Braun hit the post with two minutes left. ‘We could just not put one past Wolves’ goaltender Jacob Hadar, who had perhaps his best game in his junior career,” said Zubersky.
The Panthers’ netminder Brad Kelly also had a strong game, stopping 24 out of the 26 shots that he faced. He was left sitting on the bench when the Panthers opted for an for an additional attacker, but could only watch as the Wolves scored an empty-net goal with 18 seconds left to seal the game. The Wolves’ singular intensity may well have previewed a potentially long playoff series for the Panthers.
“It now really appears as though we will be facing the Wolves in Round 1 of the playoffs,” said Zubersky. “Looking at schedules I believe we will finish in the second and third slot and if that happens the first best-of-seven series will be a barn burner,” he said.
As of now, the Panthers sit in the second place of the South Division, one point behind the Victoria Cougars, who have two games in hand. The Westshore Wolves sit in third place, with 49 points and five games in hand.
The Panthers’ next game is Friday, Feb. 4, when they host the Victoria Cougars. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.
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