Nathan Chen-Mack jumps in front of Panthers goalie Stephen Heslop to avoid Steve Axford's goal Game 1 of the 2012 VIJHL final at Archie Browning Sports Centre on Sunday

Cat fight: Cougars blast Panthers in Game 1 of VIJHL final

The Victoria Cougars take 1-0 series lead over Peninsula Panthers in the Brent Patterson Memorial Trophy VIJHL championship

If the Peninsula Panthers are going to compete with the Victoria Cougars in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League final series, they’ll need to stay out of the penalty box.

The Cougars scored four of their first five goals on the powerplay as they blasted the Panthers 8-0 in Game 1 of the Brent Patterson Memorial Trophy final series at Archie Browning Sports Centre on Sunday. The game took place a mere 21 hours after the fifth-seeded Panthers upset the second seed Saanich Braves in Game 7 of their semifinal on Saturday, setting up a rematch of the 2011 final.

The Cougars are now three wins shy of the Brent Patterson Memorial Trophy, which they had all but engraved their name on in last year’s finals before the Panthers shocked Victoria by storming back from a 3-0 series deficit to win in seven games.

Sunday’s win was the second straight blowout for the Cougars, who eliminated the Kerry Park Islanders 12-1 on March 8, with 11 goals on the powerplay.

Steve Axford led the charge, scoring two thirds of his hat trick on the powerplay. Wade Johnson scored twice, and Chris Bannister, Trevor Chown and Kyle Richter each scored once.

The Cougars outshot the Panthers 57-13.

Panthers forward Trevor Yee, who started this season on the Islanders after winning the VIJHL and provincial championship with the Panthers last year, said his team will be better prepared for Game 2 at Archie Browning on Thursday.

“It was tough on us coming back out to play Sunday after two hard games, Friday and Saturday, while the Cougars had over a week off,” Yee said. “Guys are still trying to get some rest.”

Yee’s in his third stint with the Panthers, having played there as a 16 year old before playing a season plus with the Braves. His minor penalty for slashing was one of the few incidental penalties by the Panthers on Sunday, who were called for kneeing, spearing and butt-ending among 20 minutes of penalties in the first period alone.

“We feel like last year is still in the back of (the Cougars’) minds,” Yee said. “But we have to stay really disciplined, we know they have that powerplay.”

At some point early in the game the Panthers became frustrated with the penalties going in the Cougars’ favour.

“We have to ignore the refs,” Yee said. “We can’t let (the refs) get in our heads like (Sunday). One bad penalty and we were all over them.”

Coach Mark Van Helvoirt was happy with the Cougars game and knew the Panthers were susceptible to burnout on Sunday, which they did.

“The (Panthers) came out strong in the first 10 minutes and you could see the life slowly suck out of them after that.”

Focusing on their own game and not on the goon tactics that go with junior hockey has been a part of the Cougars’ game plan all along. It’s a model that falls in line with the Detroit Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks. But the inspiration is borrowed not from hockey, but from football, following the New England Patriots’ motto of working hard, doing your job and putting the team first.

“We’re not overly concerned with on-ice distractions, which is something our guys have bought into.”

Van Helvoirt’s also not concerned with any carryover from last year’s final.

“It’s a new story with two rebuilt teams who’ve had a lot of turnover.”

Cat nip

– Brent Patterson a Saanich Braves player who was named the VIJHL’s most valuable player in 1977. Patterson passed away at that year’s Cyclone Taylor Cup provincial championships, complaining of chest pains during a game, which led to his death later that night.

– The Cougars expect Colin Minardi and Josh Wyatt back from injury for Game 2 on Thursday.

VIJHL Brent Patterson Memorial Trophy sked

GAME 1: March 18, Panthers 0 Cougars 8

GAME 2: March 22, 7:15 p.m. at Archie Browning Sports Centre

GAME 3: March 23, 7:30 p.m. at Panorama Recreation Centre

GAME 4: March 24, 6:30 p.m. at Panorama

If necessary

GAME 5: March 25, 7:30 p.m. at Archie Browning

Game 6: March 31, 8:30 p.m. at Panorama








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