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Panthers look to regain lead in VIJHL South Division final in North Saanich

Peninsula drops a narrow 3-2 decision to Kerry Park after lopsided win in opener
Peninsula Panthers’ Logan Speirs (21) and Payton Braun (11) find themselves in a squeeze Monday against the Kerry Park Islanders at Panorama Recreation Centre. The visitors tied the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League South Division final with a 3-2 game 2 win. The series resumes Friday in North Saanich. (Photo by Christian J. Stewart Photography)

If the Peninsula Panthers found themselves in a free-flowing track meet during the first round of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoffs, their second-round series against the Kerry Park Islanders is shaping up to be a bruising roller derby.

The Panthers discovered that reality Monday night in North Saanich as the visitors from Mill Bay ground out a 3-2 victory to tie the final of the South Division at a game apiece. Game 3 goes Friday (March 11) with puck drop set for 7:30 p.m. at Panorama Recreation Centre.

“This series against the Islanders is shaping up to be an absolute dogfight,” said Panthers’ owner and general manager Pete Zubersky. “They (Islanders) are physical and are looking to use this advantage at every turn. We have the best power play in the league and have scored five times in the first two games with the advantage and that is how we are going to keep them honest.”

Following a scoreless opening period, the Islanders’ Matt Baird and Panthers’ Logan Speirs traded goals in the second. The visitors took the lead again with a power play goal from Brady Estabrook 10:34 into the third and added an insurance marker from Mateo Sjoberg with less than four minutes left.

Payton Braun scored his fifth goal of the playoffs at the final horn for the Panthers to make it a 3-2 final.

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The Panthers were coming off a convincing 6-1 opening game victory in Mill Bay last Saturday, one in which they scored three power-play goals. Riley Braun led the Panthers with two goals.

But Monday’s opponent was a different beast, as the Islanders withstood an onslaught of 42 shots by the Panthers. Kerry Park goalie Dryden Demelo kicked out 40 shots overall, while his team managed just 28 shots on Peninsula netminder Ashton Lukan. That discrepancy did not appear to faze the visitors, who were coming off a 4-0 opening round sweep of the division winning Victoria Cougars.

Zubersky, for his part, predicts the series will go six or seven games. “We certainly have our hands full, but I believe our guys are up to the task.”

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