Sports

Peninsula Panthers come back to win dramatic heart-stopper

Panthers #21 Trevor Yee gets set to corral the puck in front of Comox netminder Jackson Winkler, while silky smooth playmaker #22 David Stephens looks to help. - Gordon Lee Photography
Panthers #21 Trevor Yee gets set to corral the puck in front of Comox netminder Jackson Winkler, while silky smooth playmaker #22 David Stephens looks to help.
— image credit: Gordon Lee Photography

It was billed as the Peninsula Minor Hockey appreciation game, but for many in the near-capacity crowd it would have been more appropriately called a cardiac comeback. The Peninsula Panthers hosted the Comox Valley Glacier Kings on Friday, Feb. 17 and if you were faint of heart, this was not the game for you. In a wild end-to-end affair, it was the local squad who were on the right side of a 7-5 score after coming back from 4-1 and 5-2 deficits.

“That was the most exciting game of the year,” said Panthers coach and general manager Rob Armstrong. “It could not have come on a better night. It was our last regular season home game and easily our biggest crowd of the year and our boys really felt the energy in the stands. It was really a great night.”

The Panthers trailed 2-1 after one period, after the Glacier Kings sandwiched a Joe Densmore tally at the late 3:31 mark. It looked like it might be curtains for the Panthers and their faithful when the Glacier Kings pocketed two more before the halfway mark of the second frame. Densmore made it 4-2 with seven minutes remaining, but the Glacier Kings once more had the answer, scoring only a minute later. The Panthers would not say die and Densmore – the team’s leading scorer – beat the Glacier Kings’ keeper Jackson Winkler yet again to again make it a two-goal game. A Jake Bryan rush while the Panthers were a man short ended up behind Winkler late in the period. This highlight reel goal ignited the Panorama Recreation Centre and sent the teams to the dressing room with the Glacier Kings clinging to a 5-4 lead.

Ryan Hunter tapped in a goal fed by Cody Allison and Logan Gibson to tie the game only four minutes into the third stanza and it set off a celebration both on the ice and in the stands. And when Bryan added his second of the game on a blast from the point with eight minutes left in the game to give the Panthers their first lead, there seemed to be no possible way the Glacier Kings would come back. David Stephens sealed the deal with only 26 ticks left, sliding a backhand into the empty Glacier Kings net and the party was on.

After the win, the Panthers had an on-ice ceremony in which their jerseys, which were made up specifically for this game. They were gifted to 20 Peninsula Minor Hockey players. The team had gone into the lobby between the second and third intermission to sign autographs and the night reminded many in attendance of the feeling that was in the rink several years ago.

The Panthers second season now begins as the team open round one of their playoff run in the best-of-seven series on the road in Oceanside on Wednesday night against the Generals. They return to Panorama this Friday for game two and will be back at home for game four on Monday, Feb. 27. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. for both games. For further playoff details check out the Panthers website at www.ppanthers.bc.ca.

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