You can’t make up a stinging playoff loss in the regular season, but the Peninsula Panthers nonetheless exacted a measure of revenge to stay undefeated after the opening four games of the season.
The Panthers scored five straight goals to beat the Storm in Campbell River Saturday night. The victory leaves the Panthers the lone unbeaten team in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League after four regular season games.
The Panthers and the Storm had met earlier this year during the first round of last season’s playoffs with Campbell River winning the series in the seventh and deciding game after the Panthers had won three out of the first four games.
The weekend, however, could have turned out differently for the Panthers. Hosting the lowly Comox Valley Glacier Kings, the Panthers jumped out to a 4-1 lead, but two third-period goals by the visitors gave the game an unexpected edge.
The Panthers also showed nerves during the opening period of their game against Campbell River in finding themselves down by two goals halfway through the second period. But goals from Hunter Jensen, Tanner Wort and Thomas Spink gave the Cats a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes. They padded their lead in the third period thanks to goals from Sterling Lyon and Matt Sparrow, who received player of the game honours. Goalie Connor McKillop blocked 24 of 26 shots in picking up the win.
“This was a growing weekend for us,” said Brad Tippett, head coach. “We have had trouble in 3rd periods, letting off the gas. Friday, we dodged a bullet with a effort that was just sufficient to hold on. We got away from doing the little safe plays that are required in the late stages of a game to lock down a lead. It seemed to be a good lesson as perhaps we played our best period of the season on Saturday in [Campbell River].”
The Panthers are back in action Friday when they host the Nanaimo Buccaneers at Panorama Recreation Centre. The puck drops at 7:30 pm.