The Peninsula Panthers started their 2022-23 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) campaign with two wins.
Six different Panthers scored Friday night at North Saanich’s Panorama Recreation as the defending VIJHL champions defeated the Westshore Wolves 6-3. Forward Tanner Banks and defender Tristan Rosenblood led the Panthers with three points each. The decisive frame of Friday’s game was the second period during which the Panthers scored three goals to build on their narrow 1-0 lead after the first. But the game could have also taken a different turn had it not been for the Panthers’ penalty-killing unit, as the visitors failed to convert eight power-play opportunities.
The Panthers conceded 36 penalty minutes in Friday’s season-opener, which also doubled as the team’s home-opener. “Discipline has been an issue,” said head coach Chris Driebergen. “The players need to find a way to play with intensity but within the rules.”
In the end, the Panthers received strong play from goalie Brady Kelly, who stopped 36 out of 39 shots, and defender Theodore St. Denis.
Saturday, the Panthers travelled to Campbell River, where Payton Braun scored twice, his second goal breaking a 2-2 tie with less than two minutes left.
Mason Kelly, Brady Kelly’s twin, matched his brother’s performance from the night before, stopping 38 out of 40 shots.
“Both had strong outings this past weekend,” said Driebergen. “Practice habits for Brady and Mason were good this past week and I think that translated to games.”
Driebergen also had praise for Kieran Smith, who joined the team in the off-season. “(He) had a great attitude coming in and was able to fill roles at forward and defence,” said Driebergen of Smith, who had two assists Friday. “I thought he had a strong game versus Campbell River and looked more comfortable in a Panthers jersey Saturday.”
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