The Peninsula Panthers continue to be the measure of all things in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL).
The team won both of its games over the weekend to remain the best team in the league with nine wins out of 10 games. The club opened the weekend with a 4-3 victory against the Westshore Wolves, a back-and-forth affair featuring late-minute heroics from Josh Lingard. With the score tied at three, Lingard scored the winning goal with 94 seconds left in the game.
Trailing 2-1 after two periods, the Panthers roared back in the third period with two straight goals, only to surrender their lead halfway through the third period before Lingard’s winning goal. Matthew Sparrow, Lucas Thomson-Fiddes and Riley Braun had scored earlier.
“The Wolves pushed us hard and held the lead going into the third period,” said Panthers’ coach Brad Tippett. “We faced the challenge straight on and simply grabbed control of the game.”
If Panthers showed grit in coming back Friday, they faced some early adversity in Parksville against Oceanside Generals, who outshot the visitors 9-2.
“Oceanside always comes out of the chute very hard and Saturday was no exception,” said Tippett.
But Panthers showed defensive composure on their way to leading 2-0 after the first period and 4-2 after the second period.
“That experience on the back end eliminates any panic,” said Tippett.
The Panthers then iced the game with a couple of insurance markers in the third period. Lingard, Sparrow and Jonah Ragsdale led the Panthers on the score-sheet with two goals each. “We have enough fire power upfront that given enough time they will find a way to put pucks in the net,” he said.
The Panthers play their next game Thursday on the road in Nanaimo against the Bucaneers before returning home Friday to host the Oceanside Generals with face-off set for 7:30 at Panorama Recreation Centre.
With the quarter-turn of the season approaching, the Panthers remain the best team in the league, two points ahead of both the Oceanside Generals, who have played one extra game, and the Victoria Cougars, who have a game in hand. The Cougars also hold the distinction of being the only team that has so far beaten the Panthers.