The Panthers are heading into their third game of the 2019-2020 playoffs against the Westshore Wolves tied one game a piece after dropping Wednesday’s game 4-2 at Colwood’s The Q Centre.
Three out of the four losses that the Panthers have suffered at the hands of the Wolves this season have come in that building and Pete Zubersky, the Panthers’ general manager, struggles to understand why.
“The atmosphere is almost dead and I just don’t think we play well in there, but we got to bring our energy in the playoffs,” he said. “That is not an excuse. That is sort of what happened.”
The Panthers headed into Wednesday’s road fixture up one game after winning the opening match and appeared dominant on first glance as they led by two goals to none halfway through the game on goals by Alexander Benger late in the first period and Logan Speirs early in the second period before conceding four straight goals, including three in the third period.
“They just came out and they were on fire, and we were lackadaisical,” said Zubersky. “We just thought, ‘this is not going to be that tough’ and now we are back in a series here.”
The Panthers out-shot the Wolves 12-6 through the first period, but this figure appears misleading.
“We were leading 1-o and we got [12 shots], but it seemed every one of their shots was a dangerous opportunity,” he said. “I think the shots were misleading.”
Zubersky expects an intense game when the two teams continue their playoffs at Panorama Recreation Centre Friday night, with the puck dropping at 7:30 p.m.
“They are going to come out with a lot of confidence, and we got a good lesson,” he said. “As I said to our coach [Brad Tippett] right after the game, adversity in the first round is not necessarily a bad thing. We got a little bit of adversity here, so I think we are going to find out a lot about our club.”
As the second-best in South Division of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League as well as the league itself, the Panthers hold home-ice advantage against the Wolves. “If we continue to win at home, we are going to win the series, because we have got home-ice advantage,” said Zubersky. “But I think we got to win one in their barn. We have to hold serve on Friday, and then we need to win one in their barn.”
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