NORTH SAANICH — The Peninsula Panthers played until the final buzzer Monday night, but it was simply not enough.
The local Junior B hockey team’s season was ended following a 4-3, game four loss at home to the Victoria Cougars.
The Cougars swept the best-of-seven series, yet had their hands full in three of the contests, games that with just a bit of puck luck might have gone in the other direction.
An already young Peninsula squad became even younger in the series as they dressed 16-year-old defenceman Tyler Pang and 15-year-old defenceman Shota Yamamoto, both affiliated players from the Victoria Major Midget Royals.
“We had lost a couple of our defencemen in the series,” said Panthers’ General Manager Pete Zubersky. “Braeden Hansen had a cracked rib and Mitch Moloney separated his shoulder and so we called up the two youngsters to bolster the back end.
“That’s what we are known for. We play the young kids no matter the situation. Our program is known for this and we are not afraid to use the youngsters even in a game like this. These kids really responded and it was awesome to watch.”
The two clubs congratulated each other on ice afterwards. The Victoria win set the stage for a showdown between the VIJHL’s top two regular season teams, the Campbell River Storm and the Cougars.
Head coach Rob Mortin addressed his troops in the dressing room after the game.
“I am so proud of this group,” he said. “We worked our tails off all season long and we have come such a long way. We will loose four 20-year-olds and probably another two or three to Junior A, but we have a strong group coming back and we all wish that the year could start right now.”
Twenty-year-olds Spencer Loverock, Drayson Lum, Justin Post and Ty Tremblay will be moving on.
“These kids have been great for our organization,” said Zubersky. “I tip my hat to them, they all lead in their own way and they will always be welcome here. They are part of our family.”
The Panthers’ spring camp opens April 15 at Panorama Recreation Centre.