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Peninsula Panthers leave Westshore Wolves howling and ice Comox Valley Glacier Kings

Forward Riley Braun also becomes all-time leader in games played and points scored for the Panthers
Peninsula Panther goalie Ashton Lukan was a key contributor to his team’s 5-4 shootout victory against the Westshore Wolves Friday night. (Courtesy of Christian J. Stewart Photography)

The Peninsula Panthers may find some comfort in the words of Meat Loaf, who once famously claimed that two out of three ain’t bad.

The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League failed to make up direct ground against their arch-rivals Victoria Cougars by losing 5-3 Thursday night, but roared back with a shootout victory over the Westshore Wolves following an evenly matched game and an 8-2 thumping of the Comox Valley Glacier Kings.

“I thought we took a step forward this past week although I would have loved if we could have won all three games instead of two of three,” said Pete Zubersky, general manager and owner in assessing the team’s performance.

Thursday’s road game against the Cougars saw the Panthers jump out to a two-goal lead thanks to markers by Logan Speirs and Tristan Rosenblood, only to concede four straight goals in less than 20 minutes of play stretched over the second and third periods. Grant Gilbertson pulled the Panthers within one goal with less than three minutes left in the final frame but the Cougars restored their two goals just 37 seconds later to seal the victory.

The Panthers returned to the ice 24 hours at North Saanich’s Panorama Recreation Centre, where they hosted the Westshore Wolves. Sixty minutes of regular play, during which the Panthers led three times only to see the Wolves claw back each, followed by five minutes of overtime failed to produce a winner, thereby forcing a shootout to settle the game.

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That format had previously not favoured the Panthers, having lost their last four. In the end, Aleko Sdrakas’ goal supplied the winning 2-1 margin during the shootout to complete a close contest during which both goalies faced 32 and saved 28 shots. Friday’s victory helped to give the Panthers a five-point cushion against the Wolves, while still trailing the Victoria Cougars by nine points in the South Division, the superior of the two divisions in the league.

The Panthers underscored this aspect Sunday night with their 8-2 road victory against the Glacier Kings, which also marked a personal high for two Panthers. Riley Braun became the franchise’s all-time leader in games played (90) when the puck dropped and his three points put him past Daniel Bell for the all-time lead in points, as he currently sits on a career total of 165 points including 61 goals. Braun was already holding the all-time lead for assists (104) heading into the game.

“What an amazing feat considering that we only played 12 games last season due to the pandemic,” said Zubersky of Braun’s achievement.

Logan Speirs added to the historic significance of Sunday’s game by extending his streak of games with one point to 32.

“And Ryan Grambart had a breakout game scoring a hattrick and gained a ton of confidence to boot,” said Zubersky. “We used our speed and were dangerous all night long.”

The Panthers return to action Friday, Dec. 10, when they host the Victoria Cougars at the Panorama Recreation Centre. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.

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