The Peninsula Panthers have jumped out to an early and potentially decisive lead in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) playoff series against the Westshore Wolves.
The Panthers lead two-games-to-none after winning 5-1 Tuesday on home ice at North Saanich Panorama Recreation Centre and 7-4 Wednesday.
Owner and general manager Pete Zubersky said the Panthers are full value for their lead.
“Due to COVID and having a young squad the majority of our guys have not played in a 7-game series before,” he said. “They are learning on the fly that this is not the regular season and clearly the intensity has been ratcheted up more than a notch or two. Everyone in our lineup has played their part in the win and I love how close the club is when the games get tough.”
Tuesday’s game saw the Panthers deliver a tight defensive performance as they gave up just 22 shots with goalie Ashton Lukan stopping all but one. The Panthers’ top scorers also showed their skills. Riley Braun scored one goal and added two assists, Logan Speirs added two assists, while Payton Braun had one goal and one assist.
And it was Payton Braun’s goal less than eight minutes into the second period that gave the Panthers some breathing room by restoring the previous two-goal lead following goals by Denver Maloney and Riley Braun. Evan Loucks scored the lone goal for the Wolves to pull his team within one early in the second period before the goal by Payton Braun. Two late goals in the third period sealed the victory for the Panthers.
Wednesday’s game at The Q Centre was a more free-wheeling affair as the Wolves blitzed with an early opening goal less than two minutes into the game. Riley Braun tied the game for the Panthers, who nonetheless found themselves trailing 2-1 after one period.
But Zubersky said there was no panic in the room. “We kept working and eventually the ice tilted in our favour.”
The second period of Wednesday’s game saw a complete reversal as the Panthers pounced for four goals. The third period was a back-and-forth affair as the Wolves and Panthers traded goals twice with Logan Speirs’ second goal of the evening sealing the victory.
The Panthers return to ice Friday to host the Wolves in Game 3 at North Saanich’s Panorama Recreation Centre. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.
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