The Peninsula Panthers kick off their 2012/13 season this week with their home opener against the Westshore Wolves on Sept. 7 at Panorama Recreation Centre at 7:30 p.m.
The match up between the Panthers and the Wolves, a first-year team, will be an interesting one, said the Panthers owner Pete Zubersky, adding the Wolves have stacked their roster with junior B veterans, including three players who were off-loaded in the summer by the Panthers franchise: Josh Bloomenthal, Chris McDonald and Kayle Ramsay.
The Panthers have chosen to go young this year, returning only a handful of veterans for the 2012/13 season.
Zubersky said it is a tried and true method he’s used before with Panthers squads.
“We’re going back to the ways which brought this franchise success, and that was taking the best young kids we could get our hands on and letting them learn in junior hockey on the fly,” he said, adding: “we have a lot of skill, some good size and [good people]. I expect and demand that we always outwork the opponent and this style of play will be entertaining for our fans. We have much more depth than last season, and should be able to roll out four lines and all of them should be able to do some damage.”
One of the veterans returning to the Panthers is their goaltender, Stephen Heslop, who jumped into the team’s lineup in the playoffs last season.
The 16-year-old stood on his head time and time again, Zubersky said, helping lead the Panthers into the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League series before bowing to the arch-rival Victoria Cougars.
Heslop had just been released by the Cowichan Capitals junior A squad two weeks prior when he phoned Zubersky.
“Stephen was actually upbeat after getting the axe [from Cowichan],” Zubersky said. “The first words out of his mouth were that he could barely wait for the [Panthers’] home opener. This kid is something else – he has so much unrealized talent and I fully expect he will bring it this season.”