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Peninsula Panthers moving up in VIJHL standings with league’s top scorer

Two wins and a narrow loss to the league’s top team round out weekend action
Payton Braun celebrates his goal against the Campbell River Storm Friday night at Panorama Recreation Centre with Logan Speirs. (Christian J. Stewart/Submitted)

The Peninsula Panthers won two out of their last three games despite a rash of injuries.

The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League team wrapped up the week Sunday with a 7-4 victory over the Saanich Predators as Riley Braun scored a hattrick and the team’s powerplay scored twice on three opportunities. Special teams also notched a short-handed goal in the victory, which pushed the Panthers to third place with 20 points in the South Division, home to three out of the league’s four best teams based on point totals.

While the Campbell River Storm lead the league with 31 points, the Panthers showed (as they did against the Victoria Cougars) that they can hang with the best teams. Playing in front of 200 fans at North Saanich’s Panorama Recreation Centre, the Panthers and the Storm found themselves in a tight contest that did not find a conclusion through three regular and one overtime period. In the end, the Storm won a 2-1 shootout victory.

Two nights earlier, they had beaten the Westshore Wolves 6-4. Trailing 2-1 after one period, the Panthers exploded for three goals in the second period. While the Wolves tied the game in the third period, goals by Aleko Sdrakas and Braun (assisted by his brother Payton Braun) lifted the Panthers to victory.

Head coach Brad Tippett praised his team’s resilience in the face of injuries.

RELATED: Peninsula Panthers claw a point off Victoria Cougars in narrow loss

“The injuries provided opportunities for players to get experience they might not have otherwise and we will benefit long-term,” he said. “We are getting scoring from everyone and special teams are in the top three in both (penalty-killing and powerplay) categories. The goaltending has shown improvement.”

Newly acquired Ashton Lukan stopped 19 shots against Campbell River and 31 in the win against the Wolves.

However, the Panthers’ most lethal weapons play up front as Braun leads the league with 42 points, ahead of three players with 33 points, including fellow Panthers Logan Speirs and his brother Payton.

Overall, Tippett struck a positive note about the team’s play, knowing full well that season is still long.

“I thought we had some great efforts and some not so good moments,” he said. “Right now is the time the coaches will take stock of where we are. For the players, it is time to get some rest and heal up the bumps and bruises.”

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