Panthers #9 Tanner Wort is pictured jumping into the shot lane in the defensive end while teammate #18 Matt Sparrow looks to give help where he can. Wort, Sparrow and the Panthers knocked off the Storm 4-3 Monday night. (Courtesy of Gordon Lee Photography)

Panthers claw their way to 3-1 series lead over Storm

Game 5 of Round 1 set for Tuesday in Campbell River

The Peninsula Panthers are quickly becoming the ‘Cardiac Kids’ after yet another stunning win over the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League regular season champion Campbell River Storm.

The ‘Cats’ played their hearts out on Monday night at the Panorama Recreation Centre and came back from a second period 3-1 deficit to break through with only 1:35 left in the contest on a Jake Gajda tally. The club held on until the final buzzer for the victory, one which puts them one win away from one of the bigger Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoff upsets in memory.

The Panthers knocked off the Storm 4-2 to open the series last Tuesday night and then followed that up with a stunning 2-1 double overtime win last Friday, both coming in front of 900 die-hard fans in Campbell River. On Sunday, the two squads met up for Game 3 at the Panorama Recreation Centre and it would be the Storm who would take a turn at doubling up the Panthers by the same 4-2 score as in Game 1. With the Panthers holding a 2-1 lead in the series, Monday’s game was the most important game the locals have played in three years.

RELATED: Panthers face the Storm in Round 1 of playoffs

There were six goals scored in the middle stanza on Monday, three by each team. The Storm opened the scoring in the first minute on a marker by Damon Kramer but just over a minute later Panthers’ Hayden Visscher replied with helpers going to Gajda and Matt Sparrow. The Storm were relentless on the attack and it resulted in the next two goals by Darren Hards and Pearce Messer. But there was no quit on the Panthers bench and they were rewarded when goals by Braeden Hansen and Riley Braun knotted the score once again, this time at 3-3. Braun and Josh Lingard had assists on Hansen’s goal while Tanner Wort and Skyler Diamond-Burchuk were credited with helpers on Braun’s tying tally.

But the excitement was left for Gajda to take care of. With only 1:35 left to go and with overtime looming large, Visscher romped through the neutral zone only to have a Storm player impede him at the Storm’s blue line. The puck squirted past the defenceman and Sparrow swooped in and continued towards the Storm goal which was being minded by Aaron De Kok. Sparrow took a shot that was turned aside however, the puck bounced into the low slot right to Gajda with an inviting wide open cage. And the big right winger made no mistake snapping home the winner to the delight of a large and engaged crowd on hand. Connor McKillop picked up the 4-3 win in goal for the Panthers.

As the News Review went to press the Panthers were playing Game 5 in Campbell River on Tuesday night. If the Panthers won that game they will have advanced to the second round of the VIJHL playoffs. If the club did not find success on the road on Tuesday they will host the Campbell River Storm Friday night at the Panorama Recreation Centre with the puck set to drop at 7:30 p.m. Follow the Panthers website for up to date results at www.ppanthers.bc.ca.

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