NORTH SAANICH — A 3-1 win in Parksville Monday night has boosted the Peninsula Panthers (9-36-0) Junior B hockey team into the playoffs.
Monday night’s game was a wildcard match up between the two last place teams in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL), the Panthers and the Oceanside Generals (12-33-1). Because of the league’s uneven number of teams, the two teams faced off to see who would advance to face the Campbell River Storm (34-12-0) in an opening playoff round.
“We are pretty happy to be moving on,” said Panthers’ General Manager Pete Zubersky. “Last night was a grind. I thought the Generals were a bit better than we were after 20 minutes but I believe we took over the game after that. It was a huge step in the development of our young club. I loved it and so did everyone else involved in the game.”
Peninsula will travel to Campbell River Fri., Feb. 24 to open the series against the Storm. The teams will be in North Saanich at Panorama Rec. Centre on Sat., Feb. 25 for game two at 2 p.m.
Peninsula hosts game three on Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. and the series returns to Campbell River March 1 and 3. If necessary, the best-of-seven series comes back to North Saanich March 4 and back up-Island March 5.
“This series with the Storm is an important one for us as we move forward,” Zubersky continued. “I know we will be playing in Campbell River to a packed house and it will be loud. I expect that our fans will support the club when we get back here; this is going to be a lot of fun.”
The Panthers had no shortage of news after a busy weekend both on and off the ice.
On Friday night, Feb. 17, the Club watched their regular season come to a close when they won a heart-pounding 3-2 decision over the Westshore Wolves.
A Gavin Yee marker 4:06 into the first overtime in front of what was easily their largest crowd of the season, sealed the deal.
Less than 24 hours later, the organization hosted their annual awards dinner to a packed house at the Glen Meadows Golf and Country Club.
On Friday night the Panthers trailed 2-0 midway through the final period but goals by Kai Turner and Carson Cox knotted the game at 2-2 and whipped the crowd into a frenzy.
And when Yee snapped the winner past Wolves’ netminder Jordan Spandli, the barn completely erupted.
Panthers’ goalie Justin Anderson blocked 28 of 30 shots in picking up the win — including a monster save in the overtime which brought the crowd to its feet.
An on-ice ceremony took place immediately following the game at which time the Panthers gifted the third jersey right off their backs and onto the backs of fans and PMHA players.
The awards dinner on Saturday was highlighted by special guest speaker Wendy Watt.
She is the sister of former Panthers player Steve Simpson, who was tragically killed in a motor vehicle accident on November 2, 2001. Simpson was a passenger in a car whose driver was impaired.
Her speech did not leave a dry eye for those in attendance and she also passed along a great message to youth about the importance of making good decisions, as a single bad one can impact the rest of your life.
Peninsula Panthers award winners
Top Scorer – Drew Coughlin
Unsung Hero – Kai Turner
Best Defenceman – Braeden Hansen
Rookie of the Year – Shota Yamamoto
Steve Simpson Memorial – Ty Hermsen
Most Valuable Player – Trevor Owens
Most Sportsmanlike – Marshall Brown
Fan Favourite – Koby Hale
Community Leadership – Gavin Yee
Most Improved – Zack Evans
— Peninsula Panthers Hockey Club