Panthers Move Win Record to .500

After shutting down the visiting Nanaimo Buccaneers 6-0 on Friday night, the Peninsula Panthers hit the road and bounced the Kerry Park Islanders 5-4 only 24 hours later to move their record to .500

The Peninsula Panthers opened the VIJHL Regular season dropping their first three games but they have finally evened their record to four wins, four losses and an overtime shootout after nine games are now in the books.  On Friday night they were full value for a 6-0 win in the friendly confines of the Panorama Recreation Centre and then travelled to Mill Bay on Saturday where they took the opportunity to pull to .500 by downing the Kerry Park Islanders 5-4.

Friday night was all Panthers.  The Buccaneers were still smarting from a 14-1 pounding suffered at the hands of the ‘Cats’ eight days earlier up in the Hub City and it appeared as though they were satisfied to keep the score respectable in North Saanich.  The visitors played a passive defensive system in their defensive end, often not challenging shots from the outside in order to have an army of players in the shot lanes and around their cage.  And although it mitigated a lot of damage on the scoresheet, the Bucs tactics did not reward them with a win.  Theodore St-Denis played a simple and effective game for the Panthers all night long and was rewarded early in the first frame when he beat Joshua Doherty after walking in from the left point.  It was the big rearguard’s first career marker in Junior Hockey and it proved to be the winner, albeit, there were another 55 minutes remaining in the affair.  The play went all the Panthers’ way confirmed by the shots count at 16-3 in their favour after 20 minutes were in the books and so when Tanner Banks put a notch in his belt with under a minute to go in the first period, the game had the feeling that it might be over.  Aleko Sdrakas, Riley Braun, Hunter Jensen and Payton Braun added singles before the final buzzer signalled to 196 faithful in attendance that it was time to scamper to the parking lot on a warm and clear night on the Peninsula.  And as the tunes from Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” softly played through the speakers at the Panorama, a photo of St-Denis went up on the large screen at the North end of the arena to signal that he had been named the Panthers Player of the Game.  Peninsula Minor Hockey alumni Nathan Hauser was selected as the visitors Player of the Game but it was a small consolation for the visitors as they headed off the ice and eventually rolled up the Island Highway for points North.

Rogan Bacon nailed down his first goose egg at the Junior level and was full value for the shutout.  Although he was not required to be spectacular as he blocked all 15 shots sent in his direction, he certainly was a stable factor between the pipes.  Doherty faced 50 shots and was able to knock down 44 of them, many in spectacular fashion.

On Saturday, the Panthers did not appear to have bus legs when the puck was dropped up in Mill Bay just a couple minutes after 7:30 pm in their game against the Islanders.  Sdrakas opened the scoring beating Islanders netminder Dryden Demelo just 74 seconds in, however the lead was certainly short-lived when Tobin Bergman beat Bacon from the top of the circles to knot the score at 1-1.  The visitors put the gas pedal down and seemed to take control of the game and were rewarded at the 16:06 mark of the initial stanza when Banks and Ryan Grambart worked hard below the goalline behind Demelo and fed Owen Cox in the slot just 14 feet out front.  Cox snapped a shot past the Islanders stopper and the goal would prove to be the final marker of the first 20 mintes.

And it remained all Panthers early in the middle period.  Logan Speirs and Riley Braun each added a tally of their own to move the lead to 4-1 before nine minutes had been played and when Denver Maloney found himself all alone and just 12 feet out, it had the feel that one more tally might just be enough.  But a Maloney shot found nothing but crossbar and the outcome was still in the balance.  A controversial play looked like it might change the outcome of the game when at the 12:11 mark, Islanders Logan Walker romped into the Panthers end and cut from the right wall right into the middle.  Panthers Reid Fryer moved towards Walker and just before contact, it appeared as though Walker started to go down on his own to avoid the collision.  Fryer crouched down low to avoid head contact and it appeared as though he had been successful.  Although there was a significant collision, it could quite easily have been a no-call and the Panthers bench was shocked when Fryer was sent to the showers with a 5-minute head contact infraction and a game misconduct.

“I am not questioning the call,” said Panthers GM Pete Zubersky.  “The game is moving fast and it’s a tough game to officiate.  It’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback looking back at video.  I was a long way from the play but did manage to see the video after the game.  I have my own opinion on the call but it is important for players to be able to play the game that they all want to play and a call that Fryer received comes with an automatic two-game suspension.  It would be interesting to see what the Islanders staff thought about the hit as it was almost right in front of their bench.”

Walker had released the shot just prior to the hit and the puck beat Bacon on his blocker side.  The goal went up on the board and bringing the Islanders within two and the Panthers were nailed with a double-whammy when they were forced to go on the penalty-kill for five minutes.  Dylan Parsons tallied for the Islanders three minutes into the protracted power-play and when ‘Cats’ Grant Gilbertson was sent to the sin bin moments later, the visitors were two men down clinging to a 4-3 lead.  They managed to put the penalties behind them and left for the locker room up by a goal with 20 mintues remaining in the game which was clearly now up for grabs.

At the 6:31 mark of the closing stanza, a Panthers forward failed to clear the zone on a miscue and Islanders defenceman Mateo Sjoberg gathered up the disk on the wall and just inside the blueline at the left point.  He sent in a blooping shot that somehow improbably beat Bacon to shock the ‘Cats’ and knot the game at 4-4.  But the lead would not last.  Thirty-seven seconds after the Sjoberg marker, the Islanders had control of the puck in their own zone and a defender wristed the puck three feet off the ice towards the neutral zone.  Riley Braun knocked the puck out of the air looking more like Bo Bichette than Sidney Crosby and then moved the puck deftly to linemate Speirs.  Speirs made a move or two and then made a cute pass back onto the stick of Braun who cut across the crease in front of Demelo before backhanding the biscuit past the beleaguered netminder.  It would prove to be the winner.

Bacon blocked 21 of 25 shots in picking up his second win in as many nights while Demelo was tagged with the loss as he stopped 28 of 33 Panthers scoring attempts.  Sdrakas and Parsons were selected as the Players of the Game for their respective sides.

Bench Boss Brad Tippett commented on the pair of weekend wins from his home in Sidney early Sunday morning as he put the feet up on the coffee table and settled in for a day of sports.

“I was enjoying my first cup of coffee this morning thinking how Sunday is much more relaxed after two wins. No clenched teeth, no headache as I am getting ready to watch a little Blue Jays and some NFL – relaxing Sunday!!

Friday was a far more difficult game to play than the score indicated. Nanaimo simply collapsed all 5 skaters down tight to the front of the goal. It was hard to get any pucks through to the net. We felt like we were playing against 6 goalies. We made some adjustments and began getting some penetration on the rush.  I liked our patience and sticktuitiveness to the game plan. It got a little goofy at the end with some of the Bucs running around. We picked up a couple of injuries. I told the players the best thing about the game was it was over and we are done with them for this year.

Kerry Park was a revenge game for us. And we just about gave an encore performance blowing another 4-1 lead. This time we were not entirely to blame. It was great to get a win in a tight one-goal game on the road.  Adversity does not build character – it reveals it.  We got the job done
Our special teams have been very good with all three PP units scoring on Friday. Our go-to guys scored twice early in the second on Saturday.  Injuries continue to pile up so it’s next man up mentality but we started a busy month on a good note.”


Originally posted on: