The Panthers’ Skyler Diamond-Burchuk (#4) jumps up to block a Storm shot in 2nd period Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League Friday night as the Panthers beat the Campbell River Storm 5-3 (Gordon Lee/Submitted)

Peninsula Panthers look to claw their way back into the win column

Panthers remain the best team in the league, but the Victoria Cougars are set to pounce

The Peninsula Panthers are looking to get back on the winning track after dropping two out of three games last week.

Respective losses of 5-3 and 5-2 against the Westshore Wolves and the Victoria Cougars sandwiched a 5-3 home victory against the Campbell River Storm as the Panthers hit the one-third mark of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) with a 12-3 record, good enough for first place in the league with 24 points.

But the Victoria Cougars are knocking at the door with 22 points and three games in hand. The Cougars might also slow become the Panthers’ Angstgegner (feared opponent) as they are the only team in the league to have beaten the Panthers twice this season, their latest victory coming Sunday night at Archie Browning Arena, where the Cats fell victims to stellar goaltending.

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“On Sunday against the Cougars I thought we had the start we wanted,” said Brad Tippett, head coach. “We controlled the play, created turnovers and scored first. We made a soft clear and it came right back and 10 seconds later it’s 1-1.”

Down 4-2 after two periods following some penalty troubles and poor positioning, the Panthers roared into the third period, only to concede the fifth and final Victoria goal. “We dominated the [third] period but one gamble in neutral zone cost us the [fifth] goal,” he said. “The bottom line is that they capitalized on their chances; it would be unfair to say that we didn’t. Their goaltender was the difference in the game. It could have easily been a 7-6 game.”

Looking at the week as the whole, Tippett gave his team a D- following Wednesday’s game against Westshore. The Panthers recovered with a C performance against Campbell River before upping their game with a B overall against Victoria and an A during the third period.

“Maybe it was the full moon but we were just out of sync this week from Wednesday on,” said Tibbett. “The latter part of the 2nd period on Sunday afternoon I could feel the emotion and attitude on the bench change. I said to [assistant coach] Lenny Dawes with about 5 minutes to go, ‘We’re back.’”

The Panthers will look to build on this momentum when they host the visiting Saanich Braves at the Panorama Recreation Centre, with the puck dropping at 7:30 p.m.


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