Peninsula Panther Matthew Sparrow, who leads the Vancover Island Junior Hockey League with 18 points, fights to gain control of the puck in action Friday night against the Victoria Cougars. The Panthers lost their first game of the season 4-3, then bounced back with a 7-1 victory against the Comox Valley Glacier Kings. (Gordon Lee/Submitted)

Peninsula Panthers collapse to suffer first loss of the season

The Junior B hockey team won six straight before squandering a three-goal lead

Call it a case of the seven-game-itch.

The Peninsula Panthers dropped a three-goal lead against the Victoria Cougars to lose their first game of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) season in seven tries.

Head Coach Brad Tippett called Friday’s 4-3 loss against the Cougars on home ice a “swift kick in the ego” that also left him fuming over what the team called “some discipline and effort issues” Friday night as the club was perhaps paying too much attention to recent press clippings.

RELATED: Peninsula Panthers pick up six pack of victories

The Panthers had won their first six games when they hosted the Cougars, and a short-handed goal by Riley Braun about halfway through the second period gave them a three-goal lead after first period goals from Skyler Diamond-Burchuk and Luc Pelletier.

But if the Panthers appeared on the path towards their seventh straight win, the Cougars did not demur, rallying with four straight goals, including the winner with less than two minutes left.

The Panthers had to lick their wounds on the road with a date against the Comox Valley Glacier Kings, who exploited the Panthers’ lack of discipline for an early lead. But the visitors recovered with seven straight goals with two goals each from Pelletier and Matthew Sparrow. Braun, Jonah Ragsdale and Alex Benger added singles.

Tippett said the weekend was a “little reality check” for the team. “When you don’t work you don’t usually win,” he said. “We had plenty of energy on Saturday simply because we didn’t burn too much on Friday. It was important to see how we responded to a good swift kick in the ego. Good teams can be defeated on the scoreboard but only really lose if they didn’t learn.”

He added it was important for the team to show a positive response Saturday. “Even with a split on the weekend the coaches felt we were a better team on Sunday than we were on Thursday,” he said.

The Panthers return to action Friday with a home against the Westshore Wolves at Panorama Recreation Centre. Face-off is 7:30 p.m.


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