Friday night finished the way every game should end: on the last shot by the home squad in sudden death overtime, with the crowd leaping to their feet, cheering madly. The home bench pours over the boards and spills onto the ice and 20 crazed young hockey players race to the ice in a frenzied mob to celebrate together.
This storybook finish played out in spades Friday evening at the Panorama Recreation Centre when hulking 6’3”, 205-pound Panthers defenceman Grayson Vickers unleashed his fury, wiring a laser beam past Kerry Park Islanders goaltender Jackson Jane from the high slot with two minutes left in the extra frame to lift the Cats to a 6-5 heart-stopping win.
The game-winner was the rookie’s first goal of his junior career.
Vickers, who happens to wear #6 looked eerily like another #6 – Vancouver Canuck Sami Salo, with his composure, his knack for making the big play in overtime, and the sheer power of the game-winning blast.
“Yes, that is a great comparison on that play,” said Panthers co-owner Pete Zubersky. “Vickers is really starting to come into his own, but the composure he showed on that play really surprised me. He is starting to play his size and if this kid can be as physical as I think he can, and yet can do what he did in overtime, we might just have a real horse on the back end come playoffs.”
David Stephens scored twice in regulation and the young centreman at times showed signs of brilliance and appears as though he is starting to shake off some of the rust after not having played hockey for some time before joining the Panthers less than a month ago.
Josh Bloomenthal, Ryan Hunter and Dane Gibson added singles while 19-year-old Peninsula Minor Hockey product Zach Wear stopped 39 of 44 shots – many of them outstanding – in collecting the win.
“I feel [Vickers] like quite a few others, has grown in the past several weeks and even though we are sitting around .500 we could really surprise coming down the stretch and into the second season when the games really matter most,” Zubersky said.
The Panthers face the Campbell River Storm at Panorama Recreation Centre on Friday at 7:30 p.m.