As the Peninsula Panthers prepared for the third period of their final outing Sunday at the Cyclone Taylor Cup in Delta, the bronze medal game against the Revelstoke Grizzlies, they received a visitor in their locker room.
It was Darcie Colegrave, the mother of their teammate Grant Gilbertson, who died on Jan. 3 in a vehicle collision on the way to practice in North Saanich from Sooke.
Colegrave used her visit, at the impromptu invitation of team owner and general manager Pete Zubersky, to tell the players how proud she was of them.
As such, her physical presence was a reminder that an irreplaceable loss preceded the Panthers’ championship season in Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League play, a loss outlasting anything within the narrow confines of a hockey rink.
“We all knew that Grant Gilbertson and his family were bigger than the game,” said Zubersky.
This broader perspective also ran through his assessment of the overall tournament, which determined the best junior B team in the province. The Panthers finished fourth with a 3-2 loss after giving up a late goal to Kootenay International league champion Revelstoke – little more than 12 hours after the Grizzlies beat Peninsula 2-1 in a shootout that went an incredible 12 rounds on Saturday.
The Panthers opened Thursday with a 6-2 loss to eventual champion Langley Trappers, who raced to a 4-0 lead little more than 10 minutes in. Friday saw the Panthers lose 8-7 to the host Delta Ice Hawks in a game that saw six goals scored in the first period and seven in the third.
Zubersky said the Panthers could have won the tournament, despite only garnering a shootout loss in the four games.
“The other three teams were truly great; I thought we were as well,” he said. “But the bounces did not go our way and we left the tournament on Sunday with nothing to show except for the experience. But strangely, there was no negativity surrounding our players, coaches, organization or our parent group. There was a hint of disappointment, as we all felt that with a bounce here or there it could have been a far different outcome, but no negativity. I have been in the game a long time and have never seen such a fantastic collective attitude.”
The Panthers were set to enjoy a “stress-free 80 minutes of pond hockey” on Tuesday night, before gifting their game jerseys to graduating 20-year-old players Riley Braun, Logan Speirs, Denver Maloney, Sterling Lyon, Kyle Brown and Brandon Pascoe.
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