Forward Mason McNeil of the Peninsula Panthers tries to get up as Carson Harris tries to pin him during Saturday’s Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) game, which saw the Panthers come out ahead 3-2 to extend their winning streak to six games. Their streak now stands at seven games after winning Tuesday night. (Christian J. Stewart Photography/Submitted)

Forward Mason McNeil of the Peninsula Panthers tries to get up as Carson Harris tries to pin him during Saturday’s Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) game, which saw the Panthers come out ahead 3-2 to extend their winning streak to six games. Their streak now stands at seven games after winning Tuesday night. (Christian J. Stewart Photography/Submitted)

UPDATE: Seven straight victory propels Peninsula Panthers to best start in 25 years

The defending champions remain the only undefeated team in VIJHL

Seven wins in seven games add up to the best start for the Peninsula Panthers in a quarter-century.

The defending champions remain the only undefeated team in Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) play after beating the Kerry Park Islanders 2-1 Tuesday night. Ryan Grambert continues to lead the Panthers as he scored both goals for the Panthers, including the tie-breaking goal with less than four minutes left. The unsual Tuesday night game on the road came after the Panthers had won two homes against opponents from the North Division – 4-3 against the Oceanside Generals and 3-2 against Campbell River Storm.

Owner and general manager Pete Zubersky said Sunday the team’s play is exciting to watch in praising the early work of head coach Chris Driebergen in his first junior hockey coaching gig. “We have been doing so many good things as a team to start the season and have been rewarded with our best start in 25 years,” said Zubersky. “The players are working hard for him (Driebergen) and it is paying off in spades,” he said later.

On Friday night, the Panthers renewed their rivalry with the Oceanside Generals, who lead two-nothing after the first period, a point not lost on Zubersky.

“For the first five games (including Friday’s) we have not played well from the opening face-off and were the second best team on the ice in the first 20 minutes every time,” said Zubersky. “But we somehow managed to come back time and time again and that is a great trait.”

Grambart scored twice in the second period to temporarily tie the game and Ethan Lingard’s third goal of the season tied the game halfway through the third period to tie the game again.

RELATED: Four games, four wins for Peninsula Panthers as VIJHL season continues

This deadlock did not end until the mandatory shootout following a scoreless overtime with the Panthers claiming the extra point. They then played less than 24 hours later on a Saturday afternoon against the visiting Campbell River Storm.

Like Friday night, the Panthers had to overcome a deficit and like Friday night, it was Grambart with two goals in the second period to tie the game before putting the Panthers ahead. The third period saw no scoring as the Panthers hung on for their sixth straight victory.

The Kelly twins split goal-tending duties over the weekend as they had done in the past, with Brady stopping 28 out of 31 shots and Mason stepping 24 out of 26 shots.

“The Kelly twins have been outstanding between the pipes for us and have split the games right down the middle,” said Zubersky.

The Panthers return to action Friday night when they host the Port Alberni Bombers Friday at Panorama Recreation Centre.

“Wins right now count just as much as wins in February when the schedule is winding down and when teams are in a battle for playoff positioning,” said Zubersky. “We still have a lot of work to do and we know that. And hopefully, we can continue to get better and better and make the adjustments we need to make while still remaining in the win column as a team.”


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

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