The Peninsula Panthers broke a three-game losing streak Friday at home to win their first game of the new Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season, 5-4 over the Westshore Wolves.
The Panthers wound up a three games in four nights stretch Saturday, dropping a 4-3 decision in a shootout Saturday in Campbell River against the Storm – which earned Peninsula a single point.
The team started the week Sept. 15 with a narrow 7-6 loss against the Wolves in Colwood, their third straight defeat to open the season. But that game was also revealing for head coach Brad Tippett.
“We saw glimpses of the team we expected,” he said. “Even with 13 skaters, we deserved points in that game but came up empty. We had a lot of individual mistakes that ended up (with the puck) in our net, and we know we have to address this issue. We did find some offence and although we lost, we found some positives.”
The team’s improved play was on display at Panorama Recreation Centre on Friday, as the Panthers broke open a 2-2 tie after two periods with three goals in the third.
”Our leadership group stepped up,” Tippett said. “The work ethic, some physicality, some structure and some willingness to put our body on the line was evident. We got scoring from three of the four lines. There were still a couple of costly blunders, but we stuck with our agenda for the most part. The win was huge for our group’s confidence. We played more as a team and trusted that each individual was going to successfully do his job.”
The Panthers’ good form continued the next night on the road when they outshot the Storm 49-43. Peninsula forward Ryan Grambart sent the game to overtime, scoring the 3-3 goal with 20 seconds left in the third. The Panthers outshot the Storm 7-3 in a scoreless overtime before the shootout.
“In spite of coming in with a depleted lineup and playing our third game in four nights, we were full marks for at least one point,” Tippett said. “When a visiting team outshoots the Storm in their building and their first star is their goalie, your team is doing a lot of things well. I loved how we embraced the challenges we faced this weekend, we are clearly moving in the right direction.”
Forward Riley Braun, the team’s second-leading scorer two seasons ago, led the attack this week with two goals and five assists in three games. He is tied for the team points lead with Logan Spiers, while Braun’s brother Payton is next with six points.
The Panthers return to action Thursday night (Sept. 23) with a visit to Nanaimo before hosting the Kerry Park Islanders at Panorama on Friday. Puck drops at 7:30 p.m.
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