Brady Kelly stopped 40 out of 42 shots as the Peninsula Panthers defeated the Victoria Cougars 4-2 Friday night at Panorama Recreation Centre. (Christian J. Stewart Photography/Submitted)

Brady Kelly stopped 40 out of 42 shots as the Peninsula Panthers defeated the Victoria Cougars 4-2 Friday night at Panorama Recreation Centre. (Christian J. Stewart Photography/Submitted)

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

Owner and general manager Pete Zubersky sees coming home stand as test for team

The Peninsula Panthers continued their winning ways over the weekend by beating their arch-rivals Victoria Cougars at North Saanich’s Panorama Recreation before securing a road victory against the Lake Cowichan Kraken.

Friday’s 4-1 victory against the Cougars and Sunday’s 5-1 victory against the Kraken give the Panthers four wins after four games into Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) campaign. Only the Comox Valley Glacier Kings have been off to a better start as the North Division leaders have gone five-for-five with 34 goals scored.

While owner and general manager Pete Zubersky acknowledged the team’s perfect start so far, he is also not letting it distract him from the areas of improvement that have become apparent two weeks into the season.

“Although we have really done some good things there is so much more we need to get done to be a complete team,” he said.

Two weeks into the season, the Panthers rank third in penalties with 94 minutes, behind the Oceanside Generals (107) and Port Alberni Bombers (110) and have found themselves short-handed 27 times — top in the league. The Panthers’ penalty-killing unit is also the second-best in the league and their goaltending duo of brothers Brady and Mason Kelly also ranks among the best in the league.

But Zubersky knows that the Panthers are playing with fire. “Going into Sunday’s game we had been on the penalty kill 21 times in three games and that is not a winning formula,” he said.

On Friday, the Panthers handed the Cougars five power-play chances, while the Panthers had just one. On Sunday night, they had six more penalties against them. In both games though, the Panthers proved to be the superior game. They scored four goals in seven minutes to overcome the game’s opening goal by the Cougars with four separate players scoring. This balanced approach continued Sunday night as four skaters found the net with Tanner Banks scoring twice.

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Part of the team’s success rests on the Kelly twins, both having two games each between the pipes, with Brady having won Friday night and Mason Sunday night. “These guys love each other and are pulling for each other but both are competitive and want to be the best,” said Zubersky. “It has created an incredible situation between the pipes, something you may never see again. In my mind, it is the most unique story at the goaltending position in Junior Hockey in British Columbia.”

The Panthers will return to action this weekend with a two-game homestand against two of the top teams from the North Division. They will host the Oceanside Generals Friday night at Panorama Recreation Centre for the first time since the two teams met in Game 6 of last season’s VIJHL championship series in April, a contested game that ended with the Panthers winning the championship in overtime. The puck will drop at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Less than 24 hours later, the Panthers will host the Campbell River Storm Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. The Storm finished the 2021-22 regular season with the best overall record with 82 points on 46 games. By contrast, the Panthers managed 68 points on 51 games during the regular season, with COVID-19 and other factors accounting for the difference. The Panthers defeated the Storm 3-2 earlier this year.

“There are three top-end teams in the North Division and the two coming to the Panorama are right up there in that group,” said Zubersky. “We will need a really special effort this weekend, no doubt about it. We will need to start fast and maintain this effort for 60 minutes both on Friday and Saturday. This weekend will be a great measuring stick as to where we are as a club right now.”


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Peninsula PanthersSaanich PeninsulaVIJHL

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