The two best teams in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) will face off Sunday afternoon when the Victoria Cougars host the Peninsula Panthers in Game 1 of their playoff series.
While the coming round determines which of the two teams will represent the VIJHL’s South Division in the league final against the eventual winner of the North Division, it can also be read as a clash for league supremacy before the actual final.
The Cougars, which will host the Panthers at 3:30 p.m. at the Archie Browning Sports Centre in Esquimalt, head into the series after sweeping the Saanich Braves and compiling the best regular season record with 83 points on the strength of 41 victories in 48 games.
The Panthers, meanwhile, won their opening round against the Westshore Wolves by four games to one. Their clinching victory came Friday night as Luc Pelletier broke a 2-2 deadlock halfway through the third period to put the Panthers over the top and into the final against the Cougars.
The Panthers head into the series again as the best team in the league with 70 points, five points better than the Oceanside Generals, the best team in the North Division during the regular season.
Looking at the head-to-head record between the two teams, the Cougars won five out of eight games agains the Panthers, with both teams being rather streaky.
The Cougars opened their head-to-head matches against the Panthers with a three-game winning streaks, only for the Panthers to win the next three games. The Cougars, however, finished off their regular season games against the Panthers with two straight victories. Notably, the Panthers had more road victories against the Cougars (two) than home victories (one).
On an individual level, the series features the best five scorers during the regular season: Tanner Wort (86 points), Riley Braun (74 points) and Josh Lingard (71 points) for the Panthers and Evan Easton (72 points) and Bryce Irwin (70 points) for the Cougars.
After today’s game, the series resumes Wednesday with an 8:30 p.m. game at Archie Browning Sports Centre. The series then shifts for the next two games to the Panorama Recreation Centre, starting Friday night with the puck dropping at 7:30 p.m. Game 4 is scheduled for Saturday night, with the puck dropping at 7:30 pm. If necessary, Games 5 through 7 would then alternate, with the Cougars holding home-ice advantage. See here for tickets to Game 1.
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