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Peninsula Panthers still looking for consistency after first month of VIJHL season

Panthers lose 6-4 against Kerry Park Islanders after beating Nanaimo Buccaneers 14-1
Ryan Grambart (24) carries the puck Friday night at Panorama Recreation Centre, where the Peninsula Panthers dropped a 6-4 game against the Kerry Park Islanders after having led 4-1. (Gordon Lee/Submitted)

The Peninsula Panthers were well on their way to secure their second home win of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) season Friday, only to surrender five straight goals in losing 6-4 to the Kerry Park Islanders.

The Panthers were leading 4-1 against the visitors less than halfway through the game when Kerry Park started their rally, a rally the hosts fuelled, according to head coach Brad Tippett.

“We need to learn how to keep the peddle down no matter what the score is,” he said. “The league is too good to make it easier on the opposition. We handed Kerry Park the spark that fueled the enthusiasm that turned the tables.”

Defensive lapses allowed the Islanders to get back into the game, said Tippett. “A brain cramp or three didn’t help matters either,” he said. “Suddenly it is 4-3. We seemed to get control back early in the third period only to blow a coverage in our end, got a point shot blocked that turned into a breakaway and then got out-battled for a loose puck.” It all added up to a 6-4 loss.

“We gave the game away.”

This loss came after what was arguably the Panthers’ best game of the season so far, Thursday night in Nanaimo, where they beat the Buccaneers 14-1. They were leading 5-0 after one period and 10-1 after two periods before adding four more goals in the final frame. The Braun brothers — Riley and Payton — scored three goals each, with Payton topping his brother’s three assists with a fourth one. Each also picked up two assists in the game against Kerry Park with Riley also scoring a goal.

RELATED: Panthers make early season progress, host Kerry Park in North Saanich on Friday

ALSO READ: Panthers GM expects big things for Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season

While the Braun brothers are leading the Panthers — Riley leads the league in scoring with 17 points and Payton is tied for third with 14 .

One of the Panthers’ best forecheckers will be out of the lineup for eight weeks as Sterling Lyon suffered a broken wrist.

“It was a freak play and he continued on,” Tippett said. “His speed, aggressive forechecking and leadership will be missed.”

The Panthers wrap up the first month of the season with two wins in regular time, four losses in regular time and one shootout loss. This total places the Panthers in the basement of the standings of the VIJHL’s South Division, which is emerging as the better of the two divisions. Three of the six teams in the North Division have just one point each with Campbell River having won six out of seven games. The South Division appears more even with just seven points separating the leading Cougars from the Panthers.

“We have been very patient and positive,” said Tippett, reflecting on the first month of the season. “We need to continue to improve and be more consistent.” But the current grace period, he added, is also approaching an end.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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