With the taste of near victory still lingering, the Peninsula Panthers are hungry to hit the ice and gear up for another high-energy season.
The Panthers’ Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) championship run came to an end at the hands of the Campbell River Storm during the deciding Game 7 last year. The Cats were down by one with just six minutes left in the game before falling 3-0 in the first-round series.
But head coach Brad Tippet says getting to game seven was an accomplishment of its own, and left his team hungry for another shot at winning the league.
“I think that’s still fresh in their memory. They’ve had a little taste of success,” he said.
The team also now has five 20-year-old players, additions that put the team at the same age levels as most other teams in the league.
“We’re really happy with how our team came together in the end. We fought for a couple years to get all the intangibles in place to where we wanted to be,” said Tippett. “I think the added experience we got in the spring has made everybody a step faster and 10 pounds heavier with some added confidence.”
In fact, with training two weeks underway and an exhibition game win under their belt, Tippett thinks the Panthers are already four or five weeks ahead of where they were this time last year.
“Coming in with a majority of guys in place already, we don’t have to do as much teaching. It’s more about honing right now,” he said. “The guys have come in and done a good job over the summer staying in shape. They were hungry to get on the ice early.”
As for this season’s goals? Well the league championship is always at the top, but Tippett has some internal goals for the team.
“I’ve done a lot of work this summer doing some stats and analysis and there’s some specific things within the game that we’re going to try to put into place,” he said. And I think some of the other goals we want to keep internal. It will be the focus of just those guys in the room.”
The Panthers open the regular season Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m. against the Saanich Braves at the Panorama Recreation Centre. They hit the road to Mill Bay the following day to take on the Kerry Park Islanders.
To purchase tickets, visit the Panthers’ ticket booth at the Panorama Recreation Centre, call 250-652-1804 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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