A big crowd formed in front of Panthers goaltender Connor McKillop in first period action Jan. 11 with Captain Thomas Spink wrapping up Cougars forward Grady Birk. (Gordon Lee photography)

A big crowd formed in front of Panthers goaltender Connor McKillop in first period action Jan. 11 with Captain Thomas Spink wrapping up Cougars forward Grady Birk. (Gordon Lee photography)

Panthers take out Victoria Cougars in cat fight

Team will next face Saanich Braves, who they trail by 14 points in league play

Ten goals were scored in the friendly confines of the Panorama Recreation Centre in VIJHL action last Friday (Jan. 11) and in the battle of the big cats, the Peninsula Panthers had six of them while their arch rival only managed to tally four.

When the final buzzer sounded, 296 happy fans flowed out of the exit after watching another chapter of the league’s biggest rivalry.

Panthers’ Matt Sparrow sported a hat trick for his trio of markers and added a helper on his way to being named the player of the game.

RELATED: Panthers get the claws out for Friday’s cat fight

Line mate Riley Braun also had a 4-point night with two goals and two assists – his second tally into the empty net – and Logan Speirs chipped in with a single.

The game was intense from start to finish but the Panthers played their most complete game of the regular season and were full value for the 6-4 win over the South Division leading Cougars squad.

“[Sparrow] was a huge factor in the win on Friday and had a little extra emotion in his tank having played for the Cougars last season,” said general manager Pete Zubersky calling him “one heck of a player.”

“I believe he gives us an opportunity to win in the playoffs and he will turn out to be a difference-maker once he gets totally comfortable out here,” he added.

RELATED: Peninsula Panthers gear up for home stretch

On Friday, the Panthers take on the Saanich Braves, who they trail by 14 points with both teams having 10 games left in the regular season.

With the VIJHL going to 3-point game system, the Panthers still have their sights set on catching their cross town rivals.

“The Braves have a much tougher schedule,” said Zubersky. The Panthers are slated to play them four more times, three of which are home games.

“We have a lot of distance to make up but that is a focus of ours and it would put us into a spot in the standings that would give us a nice matchup in the playoffs,” Zubersky said.

Having Saanich on home ice this week “will be the start of trying to chase them down,” he said.

“It’s not going to be easy but if we can close out the schedule as we believe and hope we can, it will give us a ton of momentum going into the playoffs.”

The Panthers take on the Braves Friday, Jan. 18 with the puck set to drop at 7:30 p.m.


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