Panther Josh Lingard lumbers out of his own end in VIJHL action last Friday night. Lingard is the odds-on favorite to capture the Top Scorer Award on the Club going into Friday night. (Gordon Lee Photography)

Hockey playoffs ahead for Peninsula Panthers

Final regular season game Friday night at Panorama Rec Centre

NORTH SAANICH — The Peninsula Panthers (19-26-0-1) will play their 48th and final game of the current Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League regular season Friday night and will then hold their annual awards banquet the following night.

The Kerry Park Islanders (21-20-0-5) will invade the Panorama Recreation Centre at 7:30 p.m. The game, which is tabbed as “Fan appreciation,” is expected to draw a sizeable crowd.

“We have seen a huge amount of development this season and we are really looking forward to making a push in the playoffs,” said Panthers’ General Manager Pete Zubersky. “We will be going up against either the high-flying Nanaimo Buccaneers (35-9-0-2) or the Campbell River Storm (35-6-4-2), two clubs with whom we have had our hands full this season. But the games became hotly contested and I thought that the last time we played both of these teams, we should have seen wins except for an unlucky bounce here and there.

“It’s going to come down to the will to win and as always, great goaltending. We have a couple guys between the pipes who can really kick and now it is time for them to turn it up a notch or two. We are looking to compete and to win.”

Fan Appreciation on Friday evening will see a host of prizes given away including the grand prize sponsored by the Mary Winspear Centre. Fans have entered the draw during home games all season long and must be in attendance to win if their name is drawn. And on Saturday, the Awards Dinner will be held at the Mary Winspear Centre starting at 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the Panthers’ game on Friday.

“There has been piqued interest in the squad this season, which consists of a youthful and talented group, many of whom reside and played their Minor Hockey right here on the Peninsula.”

Check out the Panthers’ website at ppanthers.bc.ca for updates on the first round playoff schedule.

The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) announced a new playoff format on Feb. 8 — a “1 versus 8” style.

That style is described by the league as the top eight teams being seeded according to their total points on the season. The first-place team overall with play the eighth place squad. In the opening round, it’ll be 2 vs 7, 3 vs 6 and 4vs 5.

This differs from last season in that the eighth and ninth place teams would face each other in a wildcard game to determine final seeding in a league with an uneven amount of teams (9). Previous seasons also saw teams in the North and South divisions play off to advance to a final series.

Each series is best-of-seven and the playoff champion (Brent Patterson Memorial Trophy) will advance to the Cyclone Taylor Cup in Richmond, B.C.’s Junior B hockey championship.

— with files from the Peninsula Panthers and VIJHL

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